How We Blend it All Together

IMG_5691

We have had so many requests for an in-depth look at how we juggle all our “curriculums” and activities that I finally sat down today to churn out this monster of a blog post. Its long. Really long. There were that many questions to answer. So for those that asked, here we go.

IMG_9264.JPG

First of all, a philosophy of education is not a curriculum. Its a philosophy. In using various methods we have knit together our own family philosophy of education and in all likelihood it is different from everyone else’s because it is personalized for our particular family’s needs. Everyone’s personal philosophy of education will differ and that is a beautiful thing.

Let me begin by listing what we are using for each subject in our household of four boys aged 3-8 this year so everyone is on the same page.

Math: Saxon Math, Make Math Meaningful and Life of Fred
Science: Properties of Ecosystems (My Fathers World), Usborne experiment books, Beautiful Feet Books History of Science, The Giles Frontier Nature Study, My Father’s World Kindergarten, and finally, lots and lots and lots of nature walks with Wild Explorers Club or gathering finds for the Nature Pal Exchange.
History/Geography: My Father’s World Exploring Countries and Cultures, Stories of the Nations (Simply Charlotte Mason), Brave Companions by Dave McCollough, Pin it Maps.
Bible: MFW ECC (^^) Our 24 Family Ways by Clay and Sally Clarkson
Language Arts: Spelling Wisdom Book 1 (Simply Charlotte Mason) Student Intensive A (Institute for Excellence in Writing) Explode the Code (book 6 for my 7 year old, book 4 for my 8 year old), Linguistic Development through Poetry (IEW), Delightful Reading (Simply Charlotte Mason) My Father’s World Kindergarten
Fine Arts: Pottery Class, Drawing With Children, Guitar and piano at home, Artist study (Simply Charlotte Mason) Composer Study (Simply Charlotte Mason, Hymn Study (Simply Charlotte Mason).
Foreign Language: Memoria Press Prima Latina

Throw in A Year of Playing Skillfully (AYOPS) for my 3 year old (ok, ALL my kids because everyone loves it) and Classical Conversations for three out of four kids (and myself since I am the Director of our Community).

Is your head spinning? Mine is just from writing it all down. But we’ve established our daily rhythm and our understanding of how and why we are doing this so during the week it works for us!

IMG_8446.JPG

Here is the first thing I establish when I look at my year. SEASONS. Not the usual four season of spring, summer, fall and winter, but the seasons of our activities.

Classical Conversation runs 24 weeks out of a 52 week year so I am all about getting lots done whenever CC isn’t going on. We always start our main curriculum, My Fathers World, in June. This year I will have a solid 10 weeks of school under my belt before the first day of Classical Conversations. (Hooray!) This gives me a huge lead as I navigate the rest of the year. By the time CC wraps its first term the week before Thanksgiving, I only sneak in one more week of MFW before we wrap for Advent. We like to take the whole month of December off to really enjoy Christmas together. We still do AYOPS, but its such a fun month that it feels light and easy. This year, my eldest will be using the month of December to review and work ahead towards Memory Master. We’ll see how that goes!
IMG_9891.jpg

In January we start up again. By this point, our MFW year is nearing its end! We usually wrap up in March and CC ends in April. Now you are probably wondering about my K student. Well, he started Kindergarten in March of last year. Which means that while his brother’s were on “summer break” from March-May, I was making headway with my guy on his K work. It was so much fun to just focus on him for awhile and I am so thankful that I scheduled it that way. As a third born his normal speaking voice is a near shout! He definitely blossomed under that special one on one time and attention. Once his brother’s started in June he was so confident in his work and his rhythm that the transition was nearly seamless. Praise God!

I’m sure there are some readers thinking, heck no! I need everyone off at the same time and I need a break! But the truth is, for us, this is what works and its how we make it all work. Seasonal shifts in our schooling with the ability to focus in on a specific student during their neediest time of year. I’ve loved it and the work load is so much lighter during those seasons that it feels restful.

IMG_8435.JPG

Which brings me to how we homeschool. We homeschool from a place of rest. If you have yet to read it, I encourage you to pick up Sarah Mackenzie’s book, “Teaching from a Place of Rest.” It is life giving and life changing. Friends, I feel called by God to homeschool my children and I am resting in His sovereignty and grace. I am not panicked about my children’s educations. I do my research and put it before the Lord in prayer. I make a plan, I pull the trigger and I adjust as God leads.

The main thing I do as a homeschool mom is stay flexible and adjust where needed. We are not teaching stagnant little robots. These are growing, changing, creative beings and their needs, interests, challenges, passions, and requirements evolve constantly. If we have pulled our children from a system that seeks to standardize, then we need to relish the opportunity to personalize!

IMG_9945.JPG

Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education echoes my heartbeat when it comes to education. Classical Education is what my children enjoy. I read “Consider This” by Karen Glass and realized that these two philosophies can and do blend together beautifully. SO we school under an umbrella of CM/CC. We read tons of living books throughout the year and if its possible to accomplish it outside, then that is where you will find us. My goal is to blend Charlotte Mason and the Classical Approach together in all we do. We are in the midst of Charlotte Mason and the Grammar Stage and I can honestly say I wouldnt change it for the world! Additionally, The older two love interest led learning. The younger two thrive with Waldorf and Montessori flair sprinkled throughout their days.

How does that look on a typical day when all parts of our year are in full swing? First I’ll share a break down of our day and then I’ll share a bit about how I plan and prepare for smooth days. Here is an example from the month of October with greater detail than my previous scheduling posts:

Breakfast/ Morning Meeting
While I cook breakfast the older boys work on their Classical Conversations Geography maps which I keep at the breakfast table along with their dry erase markers. The youngest helps me prepare breakfast and sets the table as his practical life skill. I set out a pot of tea and do a quick round of “show me/tell me” with the maps, picking various locations from the past weeks or perhaps whatever they learned at community that week. Then I sit down and we pray and then sing a few of the hymns we have learned so far during hymn study. We discuss whatever habit we are currently cultivating. Sometimes its just a check in, sometimes we read a book or story pertaining to the trait, etc. Next I choose something out of our morning basket (We have something for each day of the week: Artist study, Composer study, hymn study, poetry study, catechism). We will do whatever was assigned for that day for a few minutes. It is short and focused. The point of this time is to nurture and inspire and awaken. Not to hammer or quiz or lecture. Next I will read from our current history read aloud (This year its Stories of the Nations from Simply Charlotte Mason).  Next we go over any big assignments for that day or appointments, errands, etc. or we write thank you notes or notes of encouragement to others for a couple minutes. We sing CC’s scripture passage that we are learning for that cycle (This year we are all memorizing Ephesians 6) and we end the meeting. The boys go and make their beds, change out of their pajamas, brush their teeth and clear off the table. 10 minutes later we meet up in the classroom.

IMG_9931.JPG

The Block Schedule
We begin our lessons on the hour. Math is always, always first. (Leigh Bortins has an excellent explanation of this block schedule process in the first portion of the 4th edition Foundations Guide and I will state from the outset that the block schedule is the heartbeat of our rhythm and without it this circus would go up in FLAMES). We sit down to the table together and practice skip counting, counting in tens, counting up to five hundred, counting backwards from 200, whatever! We all do it together, out loud. The younger ones benefit from hearing the older ones recite for a few minutes. Then I pull out one of my prepared math trays or activities for my 5 year old and 3 year old to do. I pull out the Saxon lesson for my older boys and we work through the new concept and then they do their lesson. While they do their lesson, I pull my five year old over for a math game. Anything I do with him regarding math is just for fun and mostly interest led. If he’s into bugs, we count bugs or put them in ordinal positions. This is not a huge drawn out thing. It is brief and fun and I leave him wanting more. Which is KEY for getting little guys to like school. Next up, I get my three year old and do a morning circle time with him. We read a Waldorf story and play with his wooden animals. We sing songs and he spends lots of time sitting on my lap and getting that pressure hug he craves so much as a sensory needs little. Usually the older boys finish up while we are in circle. Sometimes they wander over and join in, sometimes they run outside to play or ride bike, sometimes they pick up art supplies or knitting needles or legos and do their own thing. I wrap up with the younger ones and then I usually have just enough time (10-15 minutes) to throw in a load of laundry or do a quick chore or answer emails or scream into a pillow. On some hours, we all finish at the same time and we go outside to enjoy our farm and play in the back hollow together. Or sometimes the elders will be working and the littles need something hands on so we leave the classroom and go to the kitchen to bake bread or assemble a pie while the elder brothers wrap things up in silence. Point is, on the next hour, everyone comes back and is mentally refreshed and ready for the next topic.

IMG_9646

We transition with our CC Memory Work. The subject that comes after Language Arts is History. So we will sing our history sentence as we gather up for history. Or our Geo song as we gather for geography, etc. Transition time is review time for CC. We usually close out our morning by singing the Timeline song and adding anything new we learned into our  individual book of centuries. And this is how our morning progresses. We all gather on the hour and recite our work together and then move to our respective work in shifts. The older boys have slowly been working towards independent learning for years and now its really paying off! I can explain what they need to do and they execute with minimal guidance as they progress. As they work, I continue with the 5 year old. Having fun and learning new things and planting little seeds of independence that will help him in years to come. Then the 5 and 3 year old repeat AYOPS activity or start a new one. We have anywhere from 5-7 options available for them to choose from. We sometimes play games to learn new subjects to help our kinesthetic learner. When we do spelling I have to input each word verbally into my eldest son’s head since he is visually disorganized. My youngest son’s therapy always happens in the middle hour while everyone else is working. My third born needs at least 5 minutes of my undivided attention every hour or he will absolutely break down (This is one of the reasons why he is the only one with his own desk/workspace). My second born is always looking for something to do, and I don’t mean some useless cutesy pinterest craft, I mean something to do that is useful and valuable and of importance. Its a lot to juggle and I had to pay close attention to figure out all these specific needs and by the time I pinned them down they were usually starting to change.  This means I am constantly on my toes but the truth is…I can do this because I am the world’s leading non divine expert on these children. He gave them to me, He called me to do this, He listens to my petitions and cares about my cries and He ultimately equips me in ways I didn’t know were possible!

IMG_9867.jpg

Lit Lunch
By the time lunch rolls around we usually have finished math, language arts and history/geography. I do this purposely so that if we are having a hard day and its all going up in flames I can call off school for the rest of the day and hide in my bathroom and eat chocolate. Its good to get the basics down and done by noon. The rest of the day is icing on the cake! I make lunch and the kids blow off steam. I always hope they’ll choose to do  and pleasant lovely things but usually they just wrestle and beat each other up in the living room and holler like crazy. Eventually I’ll call one over to set the table, usually its a recently injured child that needs a breather. We all gather at the table for the meal and sing the Doxology. I pull several books from our book basket for the week (K and ECC) and we read aloud as we eat. I pause between books to get some of my lunch in too!  Lunch is long and leisurely and we often chat and share ideas. I love it. At the end of lunch the boys do their narrations for the day. Sharing what they have heard and absorbed and what they know. Sometimes I will pull out a large piece of block paper and ask them to draw something for me while I ask them questions. This is how I administer tests. They narrate, create, explain and make connections while I jot down notes. They never even realize they are being tested.

IMG_8410.JPG

Quiet Time/Nap Time
Mandatory. Thats all I can say. Hate napping? Fine. Lay in bed and listen to audiobook. Its quiet time. Don’t want quiet time? I will give you the grossest job in the house to do on constant repeat until you beg for quiet time. I need quiet time. Every day. Cant function without it. Also, kids need quiet time. They need time to process what they have learned. They need time to ponder and wonder and just be. So yes, we have quiet time at my house every single day.We do it in shifts. The younger two usually listen to Ted Jacobs poetry CDs or The Jesus Storybook Bible, Beatrix Potter, AA Milne, etc. Something lovely and calming. The older boys and I get the detail work done during this time. Things they can only do when their little brothers arent around to mess it up. Usually art or weaving or detailed recordings in their science journals. We spend about 30 minutes doing that and then we move on to either Latin or Science. Once we are done the older boys go to their rooms for some quiet time and the younger ones bust outta their rooms like bats from a cave. The older boys use their time to play with legos or knit new projects and listen to GA Henty or Lamplighter audio books. The littles and I play, play, play, play, play. Usually its some kind of game involving letters of the alphabet or animas or naming things, etc. The older boys join us by the end because they LOVE AYOPS! I usually leave them playing skillfully together while I drink tea or read a book and just grab a few minutes for myself. On days when I just cant do anything organized because I am sick or have cramps or am seriously considering sending them all to school and going back to work, then I plop them in front of the TV and my substitute teacher Ms Frizzle teaches them for a bit while I decompress. I never ever regret it.

Nature Time/Poetry Teatime
Usually around 3pm we are ready for a snack. If we didnt get enough outdoor time in the morning between subjects, then we will grab a snack and head out for a walk. If we’re pretty tired, I set out a tablecloth, break out a large pot of tea and we read poetry while we eat snacks. I’ve said it on here before, if I feed them, they will come. I provide snacks and tea and they come to the table and soak up poetry. Its wonderful and quite possibly, my favorite thing we do.

Blessing Hour
At 4 pm I start making dinner and my boys clean the house. They bless our family by doing work so that when Daddy gets home we can enjoy dinner together and relax and play afterwards. They clean up books, put away legos, sweep the floors, wipe down counters, stack dishes, put away laundry, collect dirty laundry and toss it into the machine, etc. I love Blessing Hour and definitely feel the burden of housework when it falls by the wayside. I always spend a couple of minutes of Blessing Hour making sure my littlest littles know what they are doing. At other times of the week I will work with them to teach them how to do certain tasks. For example, learning to do dishes. They watch me do dishes several times, we do dishes together several times, I help them do dishes several times, I watch them do dishes several times and finally, I walk away and they do dishes by themselves forever and ever, AMEN! The process takes many long weeks but its worth it for smooth days in the future! If you are wondering, dishes is actually next on my list for a couple of my kiddos and I cant wait!

Dinner
Depending on the day of the week, we usually eat dinner right when Dad gets home. Sometimes we have sports practice afterwards, sometimes we have small group, but during most seasons, its just family dinner every night of the week which is an extremely high priority for us. I say NO to a lot of things around us so I can say YES to family dinners. We read our Bible stuff during this time and we enjoy it together.  After we eat its free time. Romp around the farm, play music, read books, watch a fun movie together.

IMG_9741.JPG

Bedtime
Boys shower, brush teeth and get to bed (8/8:30). We read books with the littles and then turn on their audiobook. I sit in the rocking chair in the older boys room and we read an awesome book together. Right now its Anne of Green Gables! Once that is done its Mommy and Daddy time!
And that is a typical day for us in the fall. Exception? Our community day which is CC all day long. Or Fridays, which has us doing a nature walk or beach day most of the afternoon and then working on our individual presentations for Classical Conversation’s next community day. We hold strict school hours. We have to. Friends can come play after school hours. On days when we say, “sure! come over whenever” it all falls to the wayside. We hold hard and fast to our rhythm because after many years of trial and error we  stumbled into what works and its up to me to guard the boundaries and protect it.
IMG_0192.JPG

So how do I prepare for all this learning? At the beginning of the year I set character goals and education goals and make sure they match up. If I have an education goal they dont have the character to realistically accomplish, then I need to readjust! I plan lessons by month. First, I make sure that our lessons are short and focused. This keeps their attention and also grows their habit of attention slowly over time. I always leave them wanting more and I often leave them open ended so they boys can chase the spark of interest from what they have learned if they chose to do so. I do use a homeschool planner (Debra Bell’s planner) and fill it out with our block schedule. I coordinate everyone’s subjects to the appropriate hour.  I look at all the science experiments we are doing that month and then never, ever assign them a specific day. This helps me not feel like a failure when I fail to do it on that day. Instead I assign them to a week which gives me a little breathing room. I look at our AYOPS curriculum for that month and I pick out whatever is easy and most affordable first. Then I look at anything I can do an approximation of using whatever I happen to have on hand. It wont be perfect, but it will be close thanks to creativity and mother necessity. Then I pick one or two awesome new things that just look too good to pass up and I plan on doing it no matter what. I take an evening to prepare all this stuff while my hubby watches the kids or they all watch a movie. Oftentimes I will place activities on trays or in plastic bins (think Montessori style) and I leave them for my kids to use. The understanding is that they maintain the freedom to do this as long as they clean up each time they complete an activity. Leave it messy? Lose the freedom till you earn it back. Next I make copies of whatever worksheets the boys need (which isnt many b/c I loathe handouts) and then I go onto my public library site and start putting books on hold for the next few units. If the children have expressed particular interest or curiosity over something, this is also the time when I try and sneak some of that in wherever I can for them just to keep them LOVING what they do all day.

IMG_7754

This is probably the longest, most thorough post I have ever written. If you are still reading its probably because you are desperate for help so its time for me to encourage you. Running out and doing a carbon copy of my day is probably not going to go very well. I shared this much detail so you can see how much thought went into juggling all these personalities and learning styles. You need to crack your own family’s code. Here are the steps I recommend you take.

1) PRAY. Pray and ask God to open your eyes to your family’s needs and to His will.
2) Make a list of character goals and education goals for your child(ren). Ask yourself if the education goals or appropriate to the character/habits your child already possesses. For example, you want your child to do something independently everyday for 10 minutes. Can the child follow directions? how long is their attention span when no one is keeping them on course? etc. You may need to push the education goal back for a few months or a year and work on the character/habit goals they need to accomplish the education goal.
3)Spread everything out somewhere and have your spouse or a parent or a friend join you in the eagle eye assessment.
4) TRIM THE FAT. Go ahead. You don’t need to do every single thing the curriculum says to do. Maybe opt out of something and be creative with something you know your children will respond to. Are your kids little? Do they have time to think and play?
5) Find your balance. If you have more than one kid then you have more than one personality and you are officially in need of juggling skills. Make a rhythm for your family in PENCIL on a plain ole scrap of paper. Don’t laminate anything, you’ll just hate yourself later. Write it so you can erase it and try something else. Do this until you find a groove! Maybe your kids learn best at night? Maybe they need the hard subject first and thebest subject last so they have something to look forward to. Maybe its flip flopped. Maybe they need hard work first and you start the day off with chores. Maybe you want to book end the day with beauty so you end the day with “morning time.” Whatever you discover works best for your family and all the unique personalities and learning styles therein, jot it down and be willing to change it as time goes on and people keep changing.
6) LEARN TO SAY NO. Practice it in the mirror if you have to. And if you cant say no then practice saying “not right now.” As Sonya Schafer says, “not right now” is a firm no that leaves you open to the opportunity at a later date.
7) MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF (and hubby too). Kick junior out of your bedroom and have a faculty meeting with the world’s hottest principle. Or have a parent teacher conference at the local nail salon or coffeehouse. Don’t let yourself get down to a frazzled mess before you call time out.  Its something I am working on now.
8) PRAY again over everything you’ve decided.
9) PULL THE TRIGGER. Its never going to be perfect, just go for it!
10) STAY FLEXIBLE. Be willing to adjust the plan as you go along.

 

 

 

 

MFW Kindergarten: Octopus

IMG_8267

IMG_8080.JPG

O-o Octopus was a huge hit at our house. Living in Florida means we have access to lots and lots of water. So having the Octopus and Water units back to back was tons of fun for us.

My son expressed an interest in learning more about octopus but also all sea life! I set up our K table with lots of free posters from our local nature center about various local sea life and set out several books that contained interesting and lovely illustrations. He spent a lot of time drawing, tracing and copying pictures out of these books while my older boys did their Exploring Countries and Cultures work.  I also picked up a pack of diffusing paper in sea life shapes, we used water color on these and made beautiful fish, seahorse, and turtle friends to hang up around the house.

Lastly, I set out a tray with some of our favorite nature finds from the shoreline for him to look at up close with a magnifying glass.

IMG_8219.jpg

One of our friends celebrated his birthday on the beach that week and of course my son spent quite a bit of time hunting for an octopus whenever he wasnt jumping into the sea. The hostess provided nets for all the children and they had a blast!

IMG_8267.JPG

We found a variety of crabs, small fish and bristle worms. Not a an octopus in sight but we still enjoyed the hunt.

IMG_8227.JPG

We loved studying the Mimic Octopus our first time around and when I announced it was time for the Octopus week my elder boys ran in and begged to watch this youtube video and this one.

There are TONS and TONS of Octopus crafts on pinterest. My two eldest made octopus sock friends when they were in K. Sewing buttons on to make the suction cups for the tentacles. Of course number 3 wanted to be totally and completely different, thank you very much. He does not like following instructions to make a craft. He wants to forge his own path and make it his own. So he made a hat out of construction paper and attached tentacles with cheerio suction cups glued on. The hat didn’t last long but boy did he have a blast making something of his own!

Here are a few of our favorite Ocean themed books from this week:

How to Hide an Octopus by Ruth Heller
An Octopus is Amazing by Patricia Lauber
What lives in a Shell by Katherine Weidner
The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson
Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle
Underwater Alphabet by Jerry Pallota
Giant Squid by Mary Cerullo
The Octopus Scientists by Sy Montgomery
Down, Down, Down by Steve Jenkins
Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain by Edward Ardizzone
Burt Dow, Deep Water Man by Robert McCloskey
Sunken Treasure by Gail Gibbons

We finished gathering all of our nature finds for our summer nature pal exchange. I really can not recommend this program enough!

IMG_9462.jpgIMG_9646.JPG

Our cocoplums finally ripened and we had a lovely evening picking most of them.

IMG_9716.jpg

And it was FINALLY his turn to get a library card. Oh, how proud and excited he was that day!

IMG_9406.jpg

Things are slowly easing into a good rhythm for our family as we juggle ECC, MFWK, AYOPS, therapy and SCM. Soon we will be adding CC to the mix. Its hard work but so worth it to meet all these different needs!

IMG_9299.JPG

MFW Kindergarten: Dinosaur

IMG_8609

 

IMG_8466.JPG

There is so much to be said for keeping it simple.

Oftentimes I see blogs jam packed with crafts and handouts and activities that perfectly correlate with our topics and I have that moment of “oh gosh, I need to do these things so we can really get the most out of this curriculum and he can really get this topic cemented in his head, etc.” Even after all the research and life experience, I STILL get tempted to do this sort of thing. Thats when I know we need a really, really simple week. This happens at least once a year and with this round of MFWK, it hit on Dinosaur week.

IMG_8009.JPG

My husband took my eldest two on a trip up north to visit their grandparents and I had a list a mile long of all the Dino related activities we would do while visiting my Mom’s house.

Friends, I scrapped almost all of it.

We did the MFW exercises and read lots of fun dinosaur books and played games, but all the extra stuff we usually do? Scrapped.

Instead, we spent time with my family. I am blessed to still have all four of my grandparents in good health. We soaked up our time with them and I loved seeing my little guy bonding with each of his great grandparents over cuban coffee and lychees and mangos and naptime. It was great and it was time very well spent.
IMG_8660.JPGIMG_8673.JPGIMG_8659.JPGIMG_8725.JPG

Oh, and lets not forget relaxation time…
IMG_8609.JPG
MFW K really, really, really doesn’t need embellishment. Thats the truth right there. It doesnt need extra handouts or more activity or more ways to keep your child busy. You can personalize it and expound on things your child enjoys or add something special to make it memorable, but more work or stress? Nope. Doesn’t need it.

Thats the truth about our week with the Dinosaurs. We giggled, we laughed, we learned a bit and we soaked in life and love and the wonderful, oh so wonderful and fleeting, feeling of being in Kindergarten.

Keep it simple, friends!

MFW ECC: Canada

IMG_0613

IMG_0360.JPG

Bonjour! We are home after a fun road trip up to Charlotte, NC.  Its a little challenging to prepare for a 10 day trip in the beginning of a new school year. I decided in the weeks beforehand to have the children work ahead on a few subjects: Math, L.Arts etc. so that once our trip began we could focus solely on science, geography and read alouds. This worked really well for us! We started LM Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables and visited so many great nature centers and had many outdoor adventures and came home with lots of additions to our Nature Journals.

IMG_0311.jpg

It was so great to get up close and personal with many of the biome topics we had already studied. Especially in the forests! We really took advantage of our time in a different climate. What great hands on experience for the boys.

IMG_0613.JPG
Once home we devoted the majority of our time to the study of Canada.  Here are a few of our favorite resources:

We completed our Geography Study from Beautiful Feet Books last year and really loved the book “Paddle to the Sea” by Holling C Holling. I highly recommend tis beautiful book, in fact, all of Holling’s books are not to be missed.

There is a Canadian film version of “Paddle to the Sea” available on youtube. Find it here.

While reading through Anne of Green Gables or Paddle to the Sea, I left out some fun hands on activities for the boys to work with. Global Art assignments are wonderful during read aloud time. I also let the boys play with our arctic sensory bin, which is a plastic bin full of “snow” (conditioner and baking soda) and an Arctic safari toob.

DSCN0907

We really enjoyed looking at Pioneer life in Canada. Amazon Prime has a great reality series available called Pioneer Quest in which two modern day couples are asked to homestead on the prairie as pioneers. They struggle to maintain authenticity and overcome horrendous weather, mosquitos, illness, etc. My boys were fascinated by their attempts. (Warning: This is a reality series with interviews and the topic of sex comes up two or three times in a nongraphic way)

We also rented a few DVDs in French from our local library and found a few French settings on our favorite scholastic story DVDs. We got a kick out of hearing very familiar stories read in French.

IMG_1397.JPG
The inuit soap carving assignment from Global Art was met with mixed reviews on the first attempt. Yesterday we gave it another shot. First we read much more information on Inuits and watched pieces of different films explaining Inuit soapstone carving traditions and practices. Find them here and here. Here is the main site for Arctic Inuit information.

IMG_0620.JPG

The boys mapped out their own food webs this week and studied various food chains. They have been recording 5-6 animals per biome that they find interesting. I am using this exercise as a chance to teach them how to conduct research and how to sift through information to find things of interest and value. It is sloooooww work but will come in handy in near future.

We also played the game “Into the Forest” several times. This is a game about Food Web relationships and includes cards on decomposers and scavengers. There are a variety of ways to play this game and we tried several different ones. The boys also enjoyed simply looking at the cards and ordering them into a web.

health-care-life-science-products-books-activities-equipment-525326-ampersand-press-into-the-forest-food-chain-game-4.jpg

 

 

A few other books we loved for this unit:
The Kid’s Book of Canada by Barbara Greenwood
A Pioneer Sampler by Barbara Greenwood
Owls in the Family by Farley Mowatt
White Fang by Jack London
Dawn Watch by Jean Pendziwol
If you’re not from the Prairie by Dave Bouchard
Hey Canada by Vivien Bowers (a few comments on evolution)

If you have time for a longer read I recommend:
“The Story of Canada” by Janet Lunn (its 320 pages)
“With Wolfe in Canada” by GA Henty

We are starting our Brazil study with the commencement of the 2016 Rio Olympics. How exciting! I am busy prepping our tutor bins, art projects and science projects for our brand new Classical Conversations community. Its a lot of work but we are so excited for the new term to start later this month. I’ll be posting about how we blend all these styles together.

 

MFW ECC: Mexico!

IMG_9946

Hola! What a fantastic week we had in Mexico. This week’s boarding passes appeared on the boy’s breakfast plates as usual. I cut a long green chile shape out of construction paper to place on top of each ticket. The boys asked, “Why is there a long booger on my plate?” Yup. I am always successful when trying adorable pinterest things. (sigh)

IMG_9526.JPG

We got an ENORMOUS stack of books at the library. While I read aloud to the boys they did the following:

Yarn Art (Global Art p. 120), Bead Work, Desert Biome Box (pictured below), Sculpy Clay Sun faces (Global Art p. 122), chopped fruit for our paletas recipe (see recipe section), colored Mexico landmarks like Chichen Itza and used bright pastels to color in some famous Diego Rivera murals and a few Frida Kahlo paintings.

Also, never underestimate the power of tea and snacks. If I feed them, they will come and they will listen. If their mouths are full then they wont be making laser gun noises while I try to read about Teotihuacan.

IMG_9583.JPG

We continued using our two Peter Menzel books, which are really giving us an intimate and in depth look at daily life in the countries we study. Hungry Planet p. 218-225Material World p. 144-151

IMG_9577.JPG

While looking at our Peter Menzel books, the boys found a new word they had never encountered before—Bahidaj. The fruit that comes from the saguaro cactus. Hmm, what’s that? Out came the dictionary and from there we pulled out “Cactus Hotel” and “Desert Giant” the boys drew pictures of various animals living in the saguaro cactus and then they diverged. The eldest wanted to learn more about saguaro shoes, the hardened nests of woodpeckers left behind once the saguaro cactus falls and decays. This then led to a deeper look at the decaying process and the animals involved–mostly insects. My second born looked at the harvesting of the Bahidaj fruit by the O’odham people. My eldest chimed in, “sometimes they use the saguaro shoe to carry things in!” The younger one wondered, “what happens to the fruit left behind? ” Those hundreds of abandoned seeds spilling out from the red fruits exposed core. And so we studied how the cactus grows, oh so slowly, until they are 50 years old and can flower, which must then be pollinated in order for fruit to grow. Wait? Pollination? What are the most common desert pollinators? And off they go again! They were at this or nearly two hours. We ended with an effective Cacti Simulation Experiment I found online and then the boys made Gila woodpeckers out of Sculpy clay.

IMG_9946.JPG

The boys are starting to document their own pages for their ECC Geography notebooks and have decided to choose one animal, one plant, one tree, one custom and one historical story to research on their own each week (one for each day of the week). This will be a time of independent research for each boy. I agreed to the idea and I am interested to see what they discover on their own!

IMG_9444 2.jpg

We have also decided to undergo a year long project, based off of their main interest this year. We are calling it “World Village.” Its a miniature scale village filled with homes from around the world. I’m mildly surprised that we didn’t end up doing “Weapons of the World” since the boys are always so fixated on such things. But as we read our North America books and later our Peter Menzel books, the boys became increasingly intrigued by how different each culture lives, yet how many things we have in common. How people live off the land, what they eat, where they live, what they wear and how they approach life—questions about these things abound. And so we settled on “World Village” as a way for the boys to put their research into visual form. As an added bonus, they often work to construct these homes while I read aloud. Its nice to have busy hands while I read.

IMG_9938.JPG

We worked on our Adobe home this week. We used sculpy clay to form our adobe and then we baked the pieces in the oven. Once the adobe cooled down, we painted it a terra cotta color and painted the window frames and door turquoise.  The landscape for the adobe home will match the more arid regions of Mexico.

I found a fun site with 360 degree views or “tours” from different countries. On the Mexico page you can find Teotihuacan, Mayan temples and pyramids, Tenochtitlan, cities, deserts, villages, beaches, caves, mountains, etc. We had fun exploring these! (Disclaimer: I did not look at every single picture. So be present with your kiddos as they surf just in case!)

This is the best recording for Ballet Folklorico that I could find, from a gala honoring the work of Amalia Hernandez, founder and choreographer for Ballet Folklorico de Mexico. The dancing starts after the 12 minute mark and goes on for close to two hours! Singing, dancing, folk tales, etc. Check it out!

Gala del Ballet de Amalia Hernandez en La Paz

GHM_Ballet_Folklorico_13.JPG

Here are some links to music by Mexican Composers that we listened to while making our Global Art selections this week.
Silvestre Revueltas- La Noche de los Mayas
Carlos Chavez: Sinfonia India
Conlon Nancarrow: String Quartet No 3
Blas Galindo: Sones del Mariachi

Our Favorite Books from the Enormous Library Stack:

Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto
P is for Pinata by Tony Johnston
Off We Go to Mexico by Laurie Krebs
What Can You do with a Palleta? by  Carmen Tafolla
Desert Giant by Barbara Bash
Cactus Hotel by Brenda Guiberson
Desert Scrapbook by  Virginia Wright Frierson

Here are a few delicious recipes to try:

Coconut and Pineapple Tamales
Pineapple Cucumber Lime Palletas
Homemade Tortillas
Mexican Drinking Chocolate
Churros

IMG_9905.JPG

We fell into a great rhythm this week. I think we have our groove back! We also squeezed in a fantastic field trip at an arts center with our Wild + Free group. The kids were able to help make sandcasts for some glass art. It was HOT, but so much fun.

IMG_9501.JPG

We also finished collecting for our Nature Pal Exchange group. This time we are trading with a family from Colorado and we are so excited to see what they discovered.

IMG_9462.jpg

We are off to Canada next. See you there!🙂
IMG_9741.JPG

 

 

 

 

MFW ECC: North America/United States Part 2

IMG_9266

IMG_8476.jpg

Our second week of United States study happened to fall over the 4th of July! Love when things work out that way.

The boys used their Pin it! Maps every day this week! It woke up one morning and found them hard at work on their maps. I drank my tea (while it was still hot) and just stared at them.  Getting to this place felt like the longest, messiest road trip ever and yet it felt like only minutes had transpired. They can start their day without me. They can start their lessons without me. An idea sparks and they know how to chase it and explore it. It took a lot of intentional repetition to get them here. We still have a long way to go, but we see the light! woo-hoo!

IMG_8443.JPG

Let me establish something before I get into the hard stuff. I love My Father’s World. I love the company, I love their dedication to spreading God’s word and their work in Bible translation. I love that my boys first years in education have been spent with this company. Ok, now that I have said the above….

I have mentioned in other posts that Exploring Countries and Cultures has already been a bit of a let down. I was bummed with the science but as time marched on I realized that the “Exploring World Geography” book would also be a “no go” for us.  We tried to do several of the worksheets and the kids never remembered what they were about the next day. I may take a few ideas from the book and use a few pages for group activities, but I definitely will not hand each child an enormous stack of handouts and ask them to mow through it all. (UPDATE: Just fond out the EWG is meant for slightly older students, which makes sense. It was scheduled in the regular learning cycle schedule so it looked as though they were recommending it for lower level students. So skipping EWG is not a big deal at all!)

IMG_8510.JPG

So the boys will be exploring the world this year on their own terms. We will still follow the ECC schedule, use POE as a guideline, complete the student sheets and recommended reading and of course, use MFW for Bible.

Last night I let them stay up late with all of their library books and they took notes and drew pictures and dug for treasure in those pages. I came back in and they were so excited to tell me all that they had discovered!

IMG_8410.JPG

We are midway through our Morning Time materials. Our Simply Charlotte Mason studies of Chopin and Monet are going so well. The boys have learned two hymns by heart, “I Sing the Mighty Power of God” and “To God be the Glory.” They are working on their sculpting together and my seven year old is making strides with his knitting. We are about to move on to hats and hand towels because we only need so many scarves here in South Florida.

IMG_8435.JPG

We had so much fun learning about trees this week! The boys really enjoyed taking a close look at different species of trees in the various forests and learning about the ecosystems they are a part of.

IMG_8582.JPG

Of course there is nothing like experiencing the real thing. This guy is about 30 feet in the air. He has always been a climber. Once he started crawling, he started climbing and he has never stopped.

IMG_2030.jpg

My husband and the boys traveled up to Philadelphia, PA for the 4th of July weekend. It was so wonderful to celebrate the birth of our nation where it all started. They even snuck in a Phillies game with their grandparents!

IMG_2003.JPG

So with all that I shared in this post I’ll end with saying that its hard when expectations are not met. But homeschooling requires constant evaluation and reevaluation. We know our children best and I am so glad that I can make changes as needed for my children. I love that they can really dig into their learning and make it their own. I’ll be sharing more in the weeks to come about how we “chase the spark.”

IMG_9266.JPG

MFW ECC: North America/United States

IMG_7793

IMG_7700.jpg

We recently wrapped up our study of the United States. It was interesting revisiting some of our favorites from last years study of Adventures in US History and then tacking on a few new things.  I was encouraged to see just how much boys learned last year.  Here is the first worksheet they finished, filling in the states they remembered from their study last year. I thought I would show my eldest son’s work in case their is anyone else out their with a child dealing with visual disorganization/possible dyslexia.

IMG_7819.JPG

Our favorite new read this week was Cynthia Rylant’s beautiful book, “Appalachia: The Voices of Sleeping Birds.” We read through it several times and really loved how we came away with a greater understanding of personality of place.

IMG_7793.JPG

We enjoyed Tales of the Kingdom and Hero Tales this week. Both boys have been keeping reading journals with their thoughts and ideas from each story. Nothing too formal being done here. I really want them to enjoy these two books and carry meaningful conversation rather than have them fill out worksheets or write out answers to questions.

Speaking of handouts, we did drop Book of Animals. This week we stuck with Properties of Ecosystems and Living World. The boys and I used our plexiglass easel to make a tempura paint/dish soap mural of the forest layers. This really connected with my boys. Getting their hands dirty, holding races to label the layers and reading living books about the forest made for deeper learning they could relate to.

IMG_7823.JPGIMG_7828.JPG

We will continue to mash our own science together this year based on the biomes and PoE sections we read. The kids are interested in making dioramas of each biome. I’m not sure I can handle making one for each, but I think we’ll end up making a few.

IMG_7715.JPG

This is our final week with **just** MFW ECC. We are now mixing in all of our Math, Latin, Language Arts etc. So much to look forward to.

One final note. Its so ridiculously hot outside. Every time we have a rainstorm, the kids beg to go outside for “a quick splash.” Its always worth it.

IMG_7931.JPG