Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Schole drink

Need a quick mood changer during school? Quick tip: pour flavored coffee creamer into a mug of cold or warm milk. Photographed here: Peppermint mocha adds a touch of "peppermint patty".

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Homeschooling from a state of rest

My notes from the symposium.  They had page protectors and colorful notecards available for notetaking.  It was a fun way to take notes!
I've heard Andrew Kern speak about "teaching from a state of rest" and Christopher Perrin speak about "schole".  Last Saturday, a fellow CC mom hosted a "Homeschooling from a State of Rest" Symposium.  It was a lovely time of uplifting Christian music, good food and lattes, and discussion.  I wish I could capture the atmosphere and the encouraging words, and post it in its entirety, but a few notes will have to do!

It was not a 12 step program towards restful homeschooling.

It was not a list of shoulds and should nots.  It was not a guilt trip of "more, more, More!" that moms typically hear, even if it's in their own minds.

It was simply a group of moms sharing wisdom and empathizing with each other, as we meditated on Scripture and contemplated Classical speakers such as Kern and Perrin.

I'll be honest: right now I'm typing this as I chase a hyper puppy. My life is not "restful" in its current stage, and I bet many of you moms can say the same!  But there are some ways to add in a bit of peace and rest into your days, amidst the chaos.

What is the definition of Classical Education?
Some words we might use to define Classical Education: rigor, studying hard things, dead languages, being really really smart...but CiRCE Institute defines Classical Education as -

CLASSICAL EDUCATION is the cultivation of wisdom and virtue by nourishing the soul on truth, goodness, and beauty by means of the seven liberal arts and the four sciences. (source: read CiRCE definitions here)

The word SCHOOL comes the Greek schole, which Perrin defines as "'restful learning' that comes from discussion, conversation and reflection among good friends". (Read his article in its entirety here - much to muse over).

Philippians 4:8 says
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things.  

Does this alter your view of education?  How can we practically give our children a solid Christian, Classical Education and implement schole, rather than mimic rigid public schooling methods?  What does that even look like?

Put Beautiful Things Around the Home
Worship music or classical music, flowers on the table, works of art posted on the wall, good food...create a beautiful atmosphere for your children, so that they are surrounded by lovely, true, noble things.  Read aloud together as a family.  Leave time and space (and quiet!) for contemplation.  Yes, your child will suffer boredom, but eventually he might come to notice (and appreciate?) that Monet postcard you put on the white space of your wall.

Leave time for contemplation
for your children and for you!  Leave some time to reflect and contemplate a Bible verse.  And sometimes, you'll want to share what you've contemplated with your children.  Ask the question, "Who are you teaching?" One speaker suggested that we are teaching images, images that are reflections of the things that are put before them.  So put good things in front of them, that they might reflect it.

Have rest in the things God has called you to
Why are you homeschooling?  Probably because you were called to it by God.  Part of that time of reflection and contemplation can be spent in prayer, asking God to prioritize those jobs He has for you.  The rest of the jobs on the Giant To Do list will fall off (like, my laundry...you should see the piles). Take comfort in knowing that you are choosing the very best.

There will be gaps
You cannot teach your child everything.  It is impossible.  Also, your child probably isn't receiving most of what you are trying to teach him.  Your job is to put out a table of beautiful things for your child to feast on (yes, math, reading, and writing ARE beautiful things, too).  You cannot force your child to partake in these lovely things - a big part of this is his responsibility.  Don't beat yourself up, Mama, if you are offering your child a wonderful learning opportunity and they are not taking it.

Repetition and rules
If you are familiar with Classical Education, or specifically Classical Conversations' programs, you know that repetition is a part of the teaching.  It is modeled after Biblical instruction, which was repetitious in nature.  Rules can free us: if we know what we are to do, it does not leave us the option of choosing the wrong things.

What are some things that cause STRESS in the homeschool environment?  Just a few listed here -

  • strict schedules
  • focus on finishing the textbook
  • teaching to the test, grades
  • Busy-ness, overscheduling
Take stress and turn it into an opportunity for rest.  If a schedule helps you, then use it, but all time for discussion with your children.  It is also OK to just focus deeply on one subject for the day, if strides are being made.  You don't have to get to everything on your schedule!  It's OK if you don't finish the textbook - we're looking to dive deep, and for a change of heart.  Quiet that need to see success on tests and A pluses - we do not want momentary performance, but lifelong mastery.  What is it we are trying to accomplish here, with our children?  We are nourishing souls and glorifying God.

Personal Application
My biggest a-ha moment was when I realized that "restful learning" didn't mean sloughing off hard things and just learning what comes easily - it doesn't mean taking an "unschooling" approach (necessarily).  It can mean wrestling with hard things, but we can find joy in those hard things.  For example, when I was studying my daughter's algebra lesson, it wasn't coming easy to me.  First, I had to quiet my family so I could focus.  Second, I had to go back and re-do the problems over and over again, comparing the teacher's guide with my work.  It meant a lot of re-working.  Once I finally understood the answers and could complete the problems myself, there was a great sense of accomplishment.  I realized that I could learn hard things AND do it restfully...and I could ENJOY the process.  Now, my kids DO NOT GET THIS.  They get upset when the answer isn't readily available to their understanding.  I realized during this symposium that this is my greatest goal for my kids and that I need to TEACH this joy in restful learning by MODELING my own joy in restful learning.  

Want to read more? 
One of our Guest Speakers, Amy, has much to say about Schole on her blog.

Christopher Perrin Schole video

Christopher Perrin and Sarah Mackenzie video

Andrew Kern video and audio

Amongst Lovely Things Teaching from Rest e-book and audio - purchase page and samples

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Geography with Challenge A - a "how to"

I wrote in this post, Challenge A Geography, about my daughter's Geography in Challenge A, and posted photos of her maps.  I thought I'd write a new post about how she does Geography in Challenge A.

The Challenge A guide breaks up each country or continent into week blocks.  The first two weeks, the students studied Canada.  The next two weeks they studied the U.S.  Each country segment is broken up like this -

1. Students may trace their first map for the week's assignment
2. Students should draw 3 more maps freehand, by looking at either a flat map or an atlas and drawing what they see.
3. Once they've gotten more than 2 countries, they are also challenged with drawing one map every 1-2 weeks that incorporates all past countries with the current one.  This way they practice scaling, and putting everything together for the big picture.
4. The first week, the students learned and labeled all countries/states/provinces/territories and their capitals.  The second week, students added in features such as major lakes, rivers, and mountains.
5. Occasionally, the students are asked to color their maps.  I love the colored maps; it is so aesthetically pleasing to the eye!

Yes, it is a huge task, but the students are encouraged to aim high, and see how much they can do.  Whatever they are capable of is celebrated.  And usually what they are capable of is greater than what they (and their parents) thought they were capable of.  Now, sometimes the lesson has to get tweaked.  This is the parent's job, and the tutor supports the parent in this.  Some kids are perfectionists, so they might need to make their maps blobby, and focus less on the perfection of each squiggly curve.  Some kids (ahem, boys) draw very general boxy maps, and this is OK, too.  The main goal is that the student is getting a picture in their mind of a map every time a place is mentioned.

I'm seeing this "map in the brain" in my daughter.  She quite frequently pipes up with a correction (because I truly know less than she does about Geography now) or a little tidbit about a country and its features.

How do they draw?
That is the question I stressed myself about all summer long.  I combed Leigh Bortin's book The Core, chapter 7 Geography.  Although it is an excellent read for incorporating Geography in the homeschool, I can't say it answered all my questions about how to draw.  The important point is that the student draws.

In Foundations at CC, kids spend 6 weeks learning about basic drawing and OiLS.  This is intended to help at the Challenge level, when students now need to look at a map and copy the basic shapes on paper.  I personally found the upside down drawing exercises to be helpful.  Our Foundations drawing lessons come from a small chunk of the book Drawing with Children. All of this is helpful, however, I'm finding that the Real Trick to it all is -

Sit down with a map, a pencil, and a piece of paper.
Draw what you see.  It'll be hideous, at first.  Keep practicing!  It gets better!

And I think that is the secret heart of Leigh Bortin's Chapter 7 Geography.

Finding your own method
I find that every student develops their own method.  My daughter has a 1 inch grid that she draws on her map and then she made her own 1 inch grid paper that she draws her maps on.  I try to get a good sense of the general shape, and then each shape inside of that shape.  When I draw the U.S., I start at Vermont/New Hampshire, and draw up (Maine), and then down (East Coast, and then towards the middle).  I try to think of what each shape looks like (New York looks like a sideways candle, Maryland looks like a funky gun; although my class of 6-7 year olds call it a fox).  Other students might blob their shapes, making very general shapes (circles, squares, blobs).  Whatever the method, the map will look better after a few attempts.

I especially like that it doesn't have to be a costly curriculum.  Paper, pencil, and a map are easy and cheap to come by.  I also recommend relaxing and enjoying the process: listen to good music, drink hot cocoa, and set out a snack.  It can be a time of quiet contemplation as you tackle the map, or a time of conversation with kids, as everyone sits and draws (hopefully that conversation isn't full of complaining).
My daughter's combined map of Canada, U.S., and Central America.  It isn't perfect (she was feeling done for the day).
Some of you want more, right?  Here are some links to articles and videos you might find helpful:

The Core Chapter 7 Geography article on Classical Conversations

Mahalo Draw the USA video series

Half A Hundred Acre Wood Continental Blob Maps

Note: The Core and Drawing with Children links are affiliate links with Amazon. If you click the link and purchase at Amazon, I receive a small fee.  However, if you have a good library system, you may find these titles at your local library.  If you live in Michigan and your library is enrolled in the Mel system, you can find The Core through MelCat.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A 14 yo

My oldest turned 14 yesterday and I'm so proud of her for the young woman of God she has become.

She was a snuggily little baby, who was happy as long as she was held or fed.

She was a cautious, observant toddler. Not shy, she liked people and social activities, but preferred to watch from my lap.

She hated the unpredictable. Rolling over as a baby was frightening! Slides at the park were terrifying. Even now, rollercoaster rides are horrible, but kiddie rides are fun!

She didn't need many toys to amuse her. Christmas and birthday gift shopping was difficult; however, time with family and friends was invaluable.

This is the child I didn't know how to discipline or teach. She'd suffer any consequence with stoic determination - sure of her own justification. This also meant I never had to worry about peer pressure, or going along with the crowd. She did whatever she thought was good, right, and fair - but in her own good timing, and in her own good way.

Today, she is confident in who she is and what she believes. She is hardworking and self-motivated. I can trust her to organize, manage, and perform tasks well. She has an amazing logic that simplifies things. She's not afraid to tell you what she thinks.

It is a joy to be with her - I enjoy her company (except during math, but that's a separate blog post for another day). I marvel that this same chubby baby grew into an obstinate and challenging 6 year old, but then matured into this strong, responsible young woman she is today. I'm excited to see where God takes her next.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Weekly Review

A (13-turning 14, 9th grade):
Met for Week 6 CC Challenge A.

Math: in class: graphing.  At home: MUS Lesson 25, square roots of polynomials, and difference of 2 squares (x^2 - y^2), and using difference of 2 squares to solve problems like 35 x 35, or 17 x 13.

Geography: Central America, also draw 1 map of North and Central Americas together in color.

Rhetoric: should have 15 catechism questions memorized.  Discussion about Pangaea and how mountains were formed.  It Couldn't Just Happen and Fallacy Detective chapters read.

Latin: 2nd Declension, many exercises this week!  She pushed too many exercises onto Wednesday and was left scrambling to get it all done.  She dictated to me and I wrote many of them to help her out.  Many warnings were issued that she'd stay on top of it next time. She had a pop quiz last week in class and scored 100% yay!

Literature/Writing: Last week of Carry On Mr Bowditch, studied parallelism in writing (preview of next week).  Sorted her ANI Chart and organized her arguments into categories (something about "should paper have been torn to wrap medicines?" She likes to pick obscure topics to challenge herself).

Research/Science:  the assignment was to write about a tree.  She chose the ice cream bean tree.  Wrote 2 KWO from 2 sources, fused KWO, and 1 paragraph.  Drew a sketch to accompany the paragraph and a bibliography.

This will be her last full week as a 13 year old:)

Z (11-turning 12 next month, 7th grade)
Math: Started book 2 of Horizons 6th gr.  Covered multiplication of fractions, including improper and mixed.  I taught her how to cancel/simplify before multiplying because she *hates* reducing to lowest terms.

Geography: working on the east coast, we've moved up and over to states and capitals including MI, IN, OH, KY, and TN.

Science: read about the lungs in Apologia this week.

Essentials of the English Language (EEL): copied 2 charts of her choice, diagrammed and analyzed 2 sentences.  Simple Interrogatives were our topic this week.

IEW: wrote a 3 paragaph KWO and brainstormed words we could use in our writing.  She'll finish up the writing next week (we have a week break, so we're spreading out the workload).

CC Memory work.  Experiment was about skin flaking (ew!).  Art project was perspective drawing.

G (5, K)
Did CC memory work on Monday.  Read some 100 Easy Lessons this week.  Her mission in Math is to write numbers 1-10, so we practiced on the whiteboard.  Later in the week, we started back in her workbook and she completed a few lessons.  She's beginning to develop a strong sense of "noooo, I don't want to" which is making AWANA difficult (and Math and Reading, and anything else she decides she either wants to do her way, or not at all).  Fun times.  Speaking of which, she got one verse done for AWANA.  One more and she can get her vest.

She's having many big temper tantrums to get her way (more fun).  She has a new, deeper understanding of death, and has many worries, anxieties, and questions about it.  It comes up out of the blue.  I don't know how to help her feel better or answer her questions.  I remember when my other children hit this stage.  I often wonder if the temper tantrums and clinginess are part and parcel to the newfound realities and fears that they feel.  Growing up is rough:(  I love her through it as best I can.  It is not an easy topic for any human being to wrestle with.  She also had a cold with occasional stomach upset this week.  I'm sure that fed into some of our behavior issues, too.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

My cc board

I thought I'd post a photo of my board at church before class started on Monday. It's pretty simple: memory work goes up on the board, we repeat it 7xs, and then it gets erased. That's the beauty of it: so simple a caveman could do it (using cave walls and whatever they wrote with back then).
Please ignore the little girl drawing her dream house under all our memory work:)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

CC Flipbook

So, I'm not one of those cool moms that makes neat things for her kids. I'm not that creative pinterest mom that pulls together a crafty education and a crockpot dinner. But every once in awhile, I attempt the jump into the creative mom stratosphere. Mostly I just land on my tailbone. However, this CC flipbook? Totally cool mom, pinterest worthy.

I got a mini photo album from the dollar store.

On CC Connected, I downloaded the flipbook pdf from username melodystroud (thanks, Melody - you rock!). Print and cut to size.

I also downloaded the flipbook map pages from Tierney (thank you, Tierney: you've rescued us from another day of skipping geography for lack of a map). Print and cut.
Then I loaded my book. Each week gets a map. This is making the difference in our school each week. It travels. It quizzes. It dices vegetables. Even the dog likes it! (See the chew marks? I might be making another one soon. Sigh.)

The CC Flipbook has been a successful project, I might attempt a pinterest crock pot dinner or maybe something baked in a muffin tin.