Sunday, December 8, 2019

Christmas Gift Guide: For Children Under 10

I had a few friends request that I make a gift guide or recommend gift ideas to them. I had great intentions of publishing this list in the middle of November, and I started it then, but alas, I am only just finally finishing it. I apologize to all of those early shoppers like myself, but if you need a last minute gift idea or want ideas for the future, here is a list of some of our very favorites. Click on the name of each item, and it will link you to the item.

Schleich Animals
Schleich makes the best animal toys... from farm animals to aquatic animals to wild animals to dragons and unicorns- they have everything!

Waytoplay Tracks
We love these tracks. They're versatile and easy to move around, and they invite imaginative play!

Calico Critters
My girls spend many hours playing with Calico Critters- definitely a beloved gift in our household!

 Play silks
I always saw play silks on "gift lists" that I looked at when my girls were younger, and while I admired them, I always wondered if the price was worth it. My girls really do enjoy them though! They use them for dress up, to carry things in, as blankets, to hang between two chairs, and many other imaginative uses. I love the open ended-ness of them.

Art Supplies
My girls love art supplies of all types. There is a large range of art supplies - from Crayola Silly Scents to Beeswax crayons to watercolor paints to Foxy Casa earth paints... and of course many others! My girls love having just a plain piece of white computer paper best, but they also enjoy coloring books, construction paper, and artist journals.

Probably my favorite gift of all- books! My girls enjoy books and being read to, and we add to our home library often. If you click on the "Books" title above, it will take you to an amazon list I have with book ideas we love for younger children. There are many great book lists out there, though!

Magnetic Tiles
We have had magnetic tiles for a few years now, and they are a much loved toy. We have several sets now so that several girls can play at once and so that we can build bigger things!

Kinetic Sand
Kinetic sand is such a great creation - sand that isn't messy! My girls enjoy playing with it just for fun, and sometimes we also use it for schoolwork.

Electronic Drawing Pad
These boards allow for children to draw and then erase and make a new drawing. My girls have played with them at other children's houses. I think they'd make a great car toy or a toy for when children have to sit quietly for an extended amount of time.

Musical Instruments
We've had musical instruments since my girls were young. We invested in a nicer set a couple years ago. Music is so good for children, and these toys get lots of use.

Flyer Pogo Pals
My sister put one of these on her son's wish list, and I thought they looked like a brilliant toy for an active young child!

Stacking Dolls
I have bought unfinished stacking dolls and painted each of my girl's a set. They play with them so often! You can buy finished ones on amazon as well, if you aren't crafty, like the one below.

Bow and Arrow
My girls have bow and arrows, and they have a lot of fun with them. We love all the things from Treasures from Jennifer- it's a great shop, and the owner is sweet and gifted!

Geoboards are fun and also a great challenge for the brain to think mathematically.

ClickityClack Wooden Toys
This etsy shop makes unfinished wooden toys. I love to buy them, paint them, and give them as gifts. My girls play with these often, and they're really reasonably priced gifts. It's fun that I am able to personalize them when I finish them as well. I paint with cheap acrylic paints from Walmart and then put a sealer on them so the paint doesn't chip.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Homeschool: Grade 3, Term 1 (2019-2020)

This year I officially have two students with a third grader and a first grader! I'm so thankful I get to spend my days with my kids, though it sure does keep me busy and keeps time moving fast. Sophie and Brielle are great friends but very different personalities, so it's been fun (and sometimes hard) learning how to teach to both of them and "reach" both of them most effectively.

In the Charlotte Mason world, I call the "grade" Sophie is in "Form 1A." But in trusty American talk, she is in grade 3, or third grade.

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

Natural History
Physical Education
Music Appreciation
Art Appreciation

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 1:

Bible: We read from the actual Bible text, and we are reading through Joshua/Judges and Luke this year. We covered Joshua 1-7, 9, 10, 14-15, 19-24 and Luke 1-6. We read roughly 10-20 verses a day, seeking to cover one whole "episode" but not (typically) an entire chapter in a day. We alternated days between Joshua and Luke, and we didn't read all passages in Joshua.

Poetry: We choose one poet to focus on each term, and for term three, we focused on Kate Greenaway. We read Kate Greenaway's Marigold Garden. Kate Greenaway was also a beautiful artist! We read poetry every day, so we read poems by Walt Whitman 3 times a week, and on the other days, we read from A Child’s Book of Poems and Mother Goose by Gyo Fujikawa. 

Math: We continue to use and love Charlotte Mason Elementary Arithmetic Book 2. This book can easily be used for 2nd and 3rd grade, though it's always most important to go at a child's pace and be where they actually are at in understanding. There are plans for the rest of this series to come out in the next couple years. We began our year with subtracting larger numbers. We then began multiplication! Sophie caught on quickly to multiplication (the program gives a great foundation for it!), and we covered multiplication tables 1-6 this term. We will probably finish book 2 by the end of the year, which should be perfect timing as I heard the next book should be out around that time!

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 a line or two of poetry or 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 started learning cursive this year. 

History: This year, we are covering American history from 1700-1800. I used Struggle for a Continent by Betsy Maestro as our spine for the year. For biography supplements, we used the following books:
Building a New Land: African Americans in Colonial America by James Haskins and Kathleen Benson
- George Washington by Ingrid and Edgar d'Aulaire
- The Arrow over the Door by Joseph Bruchac

Geography: We have two days that we do geography. One day is more for learning about physical geography and the general workings of the world (this is like "pre-map" work, because a child needs to understand these things before grasping a map or globe). The other day we have begun learning about specific areas of geography. We are learning this year about different countries around the world. 
Day 1 BookElementary Geography by Charlotte Mason. We actually didn't use this book this term at all, but we will be back in it next term!
Day 2 Books: - Our Big World by Barrows, Parker, and Sorensen. This term, we started in Iceland, moved through several European countries, then on to several countries in Africa, down to Antartica, and finished in Australia. This is an old textbook, so I've had to update a few things, but not too much. I love how it covers details about the land, resources, and people. They just don't make geography textbooks like this anymore.

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: The Fall of the Year by Dallas Lore Sharp
Book 2: A Walk in the Desert by Rebecca Johnson
Special Studies Books: 
Our special study was sea life and summer birds used these books:
Shimmer & Splash by Jim Arnsoky
Backyard Birds of Summer by Carol Lerner

Literature: We sure do love literature! We have two days of literature.
Day 1: We are reading Pilgrim's Progress (which is spread out over two years) (We read from pages 118-139 this term.)
Day 2: Mythology (currently reading Tales of Troy and Greece by Andrew Lang). This is a retelling of The OdysseySophie loves it, but I don't believe I will use this book as early with my other daughters. It would be for the advanced student or the child who loves any and every book.

Physical Education (Drill/Dance/Play): I went really low-key in this area this term. We did free play and jump rope and running around outside, and that's all.

Music Appreciation: We studied Chopin this term. We read Chopin, Son of Poland, Early Years by Opal Wheeler. This is the first time we didn't finish the biography. We simply didn't connect with him as much as we have some others. And I'm learning to say that's okay. Don't force things! We still enjoyed his music, and we listened to Nocturne op. 9 No. 2, Etude Op. 10 No. 3, Revolutionary Etude (Op. 10 No. 12), Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor Op. 21, Prelude No. 15 "Raindrop" Op. 28, and Heroic Polonaise Op. 53.

Art Appreciation: We studied Mary Cassatt. 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 In the Loge, The Child's Bath, Little Girl in a Blue Armchair, The Boating Party, A Woman and a Girl Driving, Young Mother Sewing, Children Playing on the Beach, Girl Arranging her Hair. Sophie (and Brielle) study each picture for a couple minutes and then narrate to me what they see. Sophie's favorite painting was Children Playing on the Beach and Brielle's was In the Loge.

Spanish: We use Cherrydale Press's Spanish Book (volume 1). It is based on Francois Gouin's research that showed it is easier to learn a language when you learn the action verbs (rather than just a noun). So, we learn a set of activities in English (acting them out); then once we have the English memorized, we learn the same set of activities in Spanish. We did Cherrydale lessons 36 and 39 this term. We also used En Mi Familia as a resource to ask questions and learn how to find and answer them based on a picture.

Singing: We learned and sang the following songs over the term:
- Patriotic Song: "Dixie's Land"
- Hymn: "Seek Ye First"
- Spanish Songs: "Colores y Numeros" and "Baile de Los Colores"
- Solfa: We began using Solfa Sofa and went through Unit 1. We really like how she has her lessons set up, and my girls enjoy doing the printables that she has available each week.

Recitation: We do recitation three times a week. The first day, we recite a hymn (rather than sing). The second day we recite a Bible verse. The third day we recite a poem. In a term, for the second grade year, the preference is to learn two hymns, two-three verses, and two poems. 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:
- Hymns: "All the Way my Savior Leads Me" and "Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus"
- Verses: Psalm 84, Luke 6:27-31, Joshua 1:9
- Poems: Kate Greenaway's "The Cats Have Come to Tea" and "The Jumping Girls" (Brielle, Grade 1, did "The Tea Party" and "Baby Mine")

Drawing: We used this time to do drawings from nature (we bring the object inside and she brush draws it – with a paint brush), from her imagination of stories we have read, and from her memory of animals she has seen. I was influenced by Waldorf pedagogy this term 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 Brielle has one for fables and fairy tales.

Handicrafts/Work: The girls learned how to latch hook this term, and each started a project, though neither got finished. Some day they'll pick them back up! We also, as a side interested, learned how to finger knit!

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.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Homeschool: How I Write my own Curriculum

I don't really like to be told what to do. I love seeking out lots of ideas and wisdom, but then I like to take that gathered information and do with it what I want. This is true for me in a lot of areas of life, including homeschooling.

So it's no surprise, I suppose, that I don't use one of the hundreds of ready-made homeschool curriculums available but instead write my own. Writing your own curriculum isn't for everyone, but I absolutely love it and find joy in it, and I want to share how I do so for those who might be interested. 

I am currently planning my third official year of homeschooling, as my daughter heads into third grade. We did a few fun and light years of homeschooling in pre-school and kindergarten, but we officially begin schooling at age 6, so that's when I begin to plan a full curriculum. We use the Charlotte Mason method, so everything I plan for our curriculum is based off of her methods.

STEP ONE: And I'll pause here to say that's truly your first step- deciding on the method of education you want to follow and/or your reasons for homeschooling. Otherwise you'll end up with a hodge podge mix of loose curriculum with no sequence, and you'll probably end up switching every year as well. Following Charlotte Mason's method gives me a foundation for everything I do in homeschooling and truly gives me the backbone I need as I plan my year.

STEP TWO: I begin by purchasing the scheduling cards through A Delectable Education. With these, I am able to work out my weekly schedule, to make sure I don't miss a subject, and to make sure I know how many times we will cover a subject in a week.

Once I lay out all the scheduling cards, I have a schedule that amounts to classes for 2 1/2 hours every day from Monday-Friday. I can't share an exact schedule as the cards are the private ownership of A Delectable Education, but seriously- they're only $5! Best $5 I ever spent! This will be the third year I re-use them too! (Next year I will have to buy another $5 set as we add in some new subjects for 4th-6th grade.)

STEP THREE: Then I look at each of my subjects, and I start filling in what I need for each. Literally, it's about as easy as that! But I will walk you through each subject and let you know where I go to find what I need. Scroll down to after Step 5, and I'll walk you through each subject. The subjects we cover in form 1 (1-3 grade), are listed below. If you're unsure of what types of subjects to cover in each grade, go back to step two and purchase those scheduling cards! You can also check out A Delectable Education's Subjects by Form page.

Natural History
Physical Education
Music Appreciation
Art Appreciation

STEP FOUR: As I'm filling in different slots, I make a list of books I need. Some of these I will purchase and some I will get from the library. It helps to write out each list, and it's especially nice to have your library list all ready to go when it's time to get the books at the beginning of the school year. 

STEP FIVE: Make a folder on your computer of all the things you need to print before the school year. For us, this includes songs, recitations, geography maps, pictures for Spanish class, sometimes a map or artwork for Bible, and solfa and piano printables. You could certainly print them as you come to each subject and work on it, but for me it is easiest to keep it all in a folder and print it all at once.

STEP SIX: I don't worry about having every day planned out at the beginning of the year. I don't always know how many pages we'll get through in a book in a day, and sometimes life happens and we might not even get to a book (public school teachers have told me the same happens to them ;)). Therefore, I just have my general outline for the year ready (and I actually mostly worry just about one term at a time... I plan some things for the whole year, but I focus especially on the term in front of me)... all the books planned, artist prints ready, a youtube playlist with songs ready, maps, songs, recitations, and pictures needed printed off, and then I do a little planning (keyword- very little!) at the beginning of each week, simply to make sure I have all these things in order. Then I do what I affectionately call "reverse planning." I have a planner, and every day when we finish our school day, I write down what we did that day. That helps me keep track of page numbers we finished on or artist prints we studied. Then the next time we circle back to that book or subject, we pick up where we left off. 


Charlotte Mason had a program for Bible. It's actually really simple- you just read the actual Bible text. So that is what we do. This spreadsheet created by Emily of A Delectable Education is what I more specifically follow to decide on what Old and New Testament passages to study each year.

This video is from a talk that Art Middlekauff did that I was able to hear last year. It's excellent if you're interested in understanding the depth and breadth of how CM schools did Bible lessons.

I choose a poet each term for us to study. Most often, I choose poets that we have connected with through our poetry anthologies. I often like to buy a book of that poet's poems- there are a lot of illustrated ones made for children.

Charlotte Mason actually had a very specific program for math, and it's really wonderful!

I own this book, which explains the entire scope and sequence of Mason's math lessons from first lessons through graduation. 

Richele Baburina has been writing a math curriculum to accommodate these ideas for teaching math in a living way. The first two books are out with more on the way! I have been using them with my daughters and think they are gold to truly understanding mathematical concepts. I can't recommend them enough!

With Sophie, I used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. With Brielle, I began by using more a gentler and fun approach, using Charlotte Mason's ideas from her volumes as well as ideas that Amy Tuttle gives in Discover Reading. She was reading some words in this way. This summer, however, she found our 100 Easy Lessons book and asked if we could do it, so we have been going through some of it. If you use this book, I recommend using it as a tool and not a faultless guide. Once we get to lesson 60ish, my kids do better to move away from it and on to actual readers.

At that point, I like to use this source from Charlotte Mason Soiree as my guide, along with the Treadwell readers.I also love Arnold Lobel readers

I also hear wonderful things about Simply Charlotte Mason's Delightful Reading program, but we have not personally used it.

For my beginner writers, I bought this type of paper. I then give them a line or two of poetry to copy. I encourage my children to picture the whole word before writing it so that they are also learning spelling. I choose poems and verses for them to copy each day and don't put a ton of time or thought into it. This year, I will start teaching my third grader cursive.

I love planning history! Charlotte Mason used a four year rotation for this subject, teaching a child's own history for the first four years, then adding in world history and ancient history. Here is a resource with more information on how we approach this subject. 

Once I know the years we are studying (1700-1800 for instance), then I start researching and finding books to use for the year. I look for a spine as well as a few biographies.
Resources I enjoy using to get book ideas:

The last two years, we have used Alice Dalgliesh's America Begins and America Builds Homes as our spines. These are very expensive as they are out of print, so I get them from the library. This year I think we will use Betsy Maestro's The American Story series for our spine. If you need a free option, Lawton's America First is a good choice (this is also available to purchase as a book on Amazon).

Geography has always been a passion of mine, so it is a subject I have put probably the most time into researching.To be honest, I think our modern public education curriculums and our homeschool curriculums do a poor job at this subject. I also think finding a living book is incredibly hard. You can find a lot of good books about people who live in other countries and cultures, but finding ones that actually talk about the land and resources is difficult. And this is a hard subject to use old books in because geography changes! If you would like to try to understand Mason's actual method for teaching geography, then I recommend listening to this podcast by A Delectable Education. 

We personally are using an old textbook and a few old books this year for geography. They were written in 1960, which is still a long time ago for geography, but being written after World War 2 is key as things have changed less dramatically since then. And as a side note, it's kind of amazing how different textbooks used to be! Like, way more detail than ones being put out today, and written much differently as well.

We also will finish using Charlotte Mason's Elementary Geography this year, which we've used for the last two years and it's essentially an intro to geography (discusses direction, distance, maps, compasses, and more).

Natural History:
You'll be happy to know that natural history is pretty easy planning for me- it's a one stop subject. I go to Sabbath Mood Homeschool to get all my ideas for books. Right now we just use her nature lore book list, but starting next year we'll also use her science guides. 

If you look at A Delectable Education's Subject by Form guide, you can see what is recommended for each grade. For instance, this year for 3rd grade, my daughter will read mythology and Pilgrim's Progress, listed under "Tales" on this guide. My 1st grade daughter will have fairy tales and fables for her literature this year. They list literature as tales, reading, and literature on this guide.

Physical Education:
We do several main things for this time slot...

* Free play
* Jump rope
* Singing games 
     - For singing games, I use songs and dances from The Joyous Book of Singing Games. For young beginners, you can do common ones like London Bridges and Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush

Music Appreciation:
This is where we do our composer study. We study 3 a term. I don't do anything special for this, but I do look at Ambleside Online's composer list to decide on composers and compositions to use. We also Opal Wheeler's composer books. I also recently found Thomas Tapper's The Great Musicians books which would be good books to introduce children to composers.

Art Appreciation:
We study 3 artists a year, and I buy the artist packets from Simply Charlotte Mason.

This subject has been a bit harder for me to wrap my mind around. I know some Spanish, but I'm nowhere close to being fluent. We use the Speaking Spanish books from Cherrydale Press (we'll be using book 1 for the third year this year). Along with this, we always learn a Spanish song each term, and I just use youtube usually to help me with that (Jose Luis Orozco is good if you're studying Spanish). Then I buy Spanish picture books... think of ones that you love in English and buy them in Spanish. I just bought the Jesus Storybook Bible, The Hungry Caterpillar, and Are you my Mother... all in Spanish. The idea is to teach children a foreign language in the way they learn their native language. I'd love to find a way to interact with a native speaker but haven't found an opportunity yet. 

Miss Mason's Languages is also a wonderful foreign language resource.

We have several categories of songs I choose from:

* Folksong/Patriotic Song
* Hymn
* Spanish Song
* Solfa

For patriotic songs, I just use google. For folksongs, you can get some great kid ideas (like I've been Working on the Railroad) by a simple google, or you can get some wordier folksongs from Ambleside Online's list. For hymns, I just look in our hymnal book that we own, but you could easily look these up online, or Ambleside Online also has a list for these. For Spanish songs, I use Youtube. For solfa, I have preciously used Miss Mason's Music. There's a $15/year membership, but it's definitely worth it as she has a lot of information and videos on her website. I've been using it for a year and a half and still haven't gotten through all of it. This year, though, for solfa we will be using Solfa Sofa. I'm excited to use this one!

There are three different categories that we use for recitation pieces:

* Hymns (we actually speak them instead of sing)
* Bible verses
* Poems

For hymns, I go through my hymnal and try to find two by the same writer. I often try to find ones that I don't love to sing because the ones that I love to sing I always want to use during singing time. For Bible verses, I choose 2 or 3 passages that are around 6 verses in length. I choose from either the Old Testament book we are studying, the New Testament book we are studying, or the Psalms. For poems, I choose two from the poet we are studying for the term. With younger children, I try to choose shorter poems.

Charlotte Mason definitely had a purpose and plan for her drawing course, which I don't have time to go into, but I will say that there are three things we focus on drawing throughout a term:

* Drawings from nature (memory)
* Drawing from objects in front of us
* Drawing scenes we read about in our stories (imagination)

We also do nature journaling, but this is during our afternoon time. I will also mention that when Charlotte Mason said drawing, she was referring to brush drawing.- with paints and paintbrush. She believed it was the best medium for training in art.

I choose one handcraft to focus on each term. We have learned sewing, hand sewing, knitting, embroidery, cooking, gardening, and loom work. We will do clay next term. If you have boys, I think all of these things are valuable for boys to learn (and I know many who love learning how to sew on buttons and finger knit!), but there are plenty of woodworking and whittling handcrafts as well! And incase you're curious, every one of the things that I taught my daughters, besides cooking and gardening, are things I just learned to do myself in the last five years! Learn with your kids- it's a lot of fun!

If you need video guides, Youtube has a lot, and Simply Charlotte Mason has video series.

Afternoon Occupations:
I also wanted to give a little acknowledgement to things we do during our afternoon time.

* Nature walks (and nature journaling)
* Piano (we will be doing online lessons with Curwen Music this year)
* Dance (my two eldest take dance classes)
* Free reads (we always have books we read for fun, and a read aloud that we read at night)
* Free time (so important for this time to think about what they've read and learned in a day and to play at them)