George Washington is one of our heroes. When my eldest turned 6 we even had a Revolutionary War reenactment in our backyard to celebrate. Washington crossed the Delaware, Paul Revere ran around warning everyone, the dastardly Cornwallis was defeated by both wooden sword and light saber. My son was dressed up like General Washington, my Dad played the part of Cornwallis. One year later we celebrated his 7th birthday with a trip to Mt. Vernon.
A few months before that visit, my son learned that George Washington was a slave owner. This was a terrible blow for him. In his heart he felt that slavery was pure evil, and now he learned that his hero had engaged in it. The past years have been spent in deep discussion about all our heroes and all their moral failings. As it turns out, every hero is sinful, save for one. Some heroes have secret sin we cannot see, others have sins exposed to the glaring light of historical truth like our friend George. We cannot ever excuse George from his participation in slavery, but we are heartened to see that he did struggle with the practice of slavery. He ultimately decided to free his slaves upon his death. It was during our time at Mount Vernon that we first heard the name of William Lee, George Washington’s closest companion and confident through the war and beyond. He was black. Washington gave Lee his freedom. “It was probably because of his friendship with his black companion that the general, even though, like Jefferson, a slave owner, said that there was ‘not a man living’ who wished more sincerely than he that slavery would be abolished by law” (Black Heroes of the Revolution by Burke Davis). You can find more information about Washington here.
Whenever we study the Declaration or the Constitution we rightfully mourn the lost opportunity for our country to declare all men truly free and equal. My son asked the other day, “I want to see America’s history as beautiful, but I can’t ignore all these horrible things that happened.” We have agreed that we can see the Beauty, Truth and Goodness in certain elements and honor those while at the same time deeply mourn over the sin, injustice and evil that grew alongside the good.
After years of studying the life of Washington through wonderful books like the D’Aulaire’s Washington, we decided to spend this week wrapping up our study of the Revolutionary War and studying the lives of other historical figures. This was the year my boys truly met heroes like Nathan Hale, Francis Marion the Swamp Fox, John Paul Jones, and more.
“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” -The Declaration of Independence.
This last sentence came alive the further we delved into the individual stories that make up the Revolutionary War. Indeed, after years of study, I believe we gained far more this year than ever before simply by walking through the event alongside other people. Our wonderful living books librarian, Michelle Miller, is a Francis Marion fanatic. On our last trip to the library she pressed a book into my hands and urged me to read it to the boys. Island Fortress by Roe Richmond. This book was heart-wrenching. Violence, death, war, torture, cruelty and unbelievable sadness. This was a difficult book to read, but it gave my children a better understanding of the Revolutionary War than anything else we had read up to that point. When they take up their wooden rifles to play army outside the story has changed. They feel it more deeply now. When they hear death tolls of battles, they gasp now. “18,000 men? That is so many mothers and daughters and sisters and little sons and little brothers hurting over their dead.”
We wrapped up our study by spreading out a large sheet of butcher paper, drawing the eastern coast of America and slowly filling in all the various battles we had studied or read about.
Many of you have asked how we balance our study throughout the day. The truth is each day varies. Our community day now runs through the afternoon thanks to Essentials, so we do not do any other work upon our return home. We have 3 days of “regular” study and one special day at the end of the week to schedule.
Regular school days for this term look like this:
Farm Chores/Morning Chores
Children make breakfast
Morning Time: We open with a prayer, song of ascent, hymn, lesson from our catechism and then answer a few questions from our family bible study of Romans with Bible Study Fellowship. The following is done on a loop:
Colonial Art Study
Stories from America by Lorene Lambert
Architecture by Hillyer
Stories from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb
Speaking Spanish with Miss Mason and Francois
Trial and Triumph
Family Read Aloud
We cap off with memory work recitation for CC and we diagram a sentence together. (75% of the table has no idea what is happening when we diagram).
Math, Music and Latin
The next hour is a delicate balance and a bit of a dance. The younger boys go and practice their violins while the older boys get either a new Latin lesson, or drill the vocabulary from the previous lesson. Once the younger children return, the older boys go and practice their instruments while the younger children have their math lesson. Once the older children return they get their math lesson while the younger children go play. We usually accomplish this all in 50 minutes to an hour. Those of you familiar with our rhythm are probably even now thinking WHAT HAPPENED TO OLDER CHILDREN PLAYING TILL THE END OF THE HOUR AND STARTING ON THE NEW HOUR? This is true for all other hours of the day, but this beginning hour is one I am recently taking advantage of because I see a growing willingness in my older children to work through the hour.
History/Playful Pioneers/A Year of Playing Skillfully
At the top of the hour I hand an AYOPS activity to my youngest son who begins to play and work while the rest of us sit down at the table. I give my middle child a brief history story which he narrates while the older children work on finishing illustrations from the day before or writing out history sentences. I usually give my youngest another sensory tray at this point and the middle one joins him. Then I turn to my older children. We are working through our Beautiful Feet Books spine, using our Pin It Maps US History bundle and using several living book each week for our history study. I read for about thirty minutes total during this hour. I try to break it up in chunks for purposes of narration and dialogue. They record their work in their composition books. While the older children are recording work, I am reading aloud or working with my 1st grader on his Playful Pioneer work. The children play for the remainder of the hour.
My older boys are in charge of making one lunch each week. While the chef of the day prepares the lunch meal, everyone else works to tidy the house again. The dishwasher is unloaded, the classroom is swept, sometimes I hide in the bathroom and eat chocolate….important stuff. Once lunch is ready we all sit down to eat. Once I have eaten most of my lunch I pull out a fun book and begin to read. Right now we are slowly making our way through the Burgess Bird Book. We have been enjoying this book since last April. We are about 10 chapters away from finishing. Sometimes we will set it aside and read another story from Ambleside Online’s Year 0/1 lists.
Immediately following lunch my older boys retreat for quiet reading hour. They usually take a cup of tea with them. They curl up on chairs in our library and read biographies or living science books. THIS IS PURELY FOR ENJOYMENT. My middle son and I have his reading lesson and I listen to him read aloud for 15 minutes at which point he is excused to his room to rest and listen to an audio story. Then my youngest and I sit down for his speech therapy. Once this is complete he is excused to his room for an audio story and rest.
Once the boys are finished reading they have a half hour break before heading back to the classroom. We usually begin this work at about 2:30 in the afternoon. They commence by taking out their IEW Phonetic Zoo program and running through their spelling list together. Then they break up for their IEW work. My second born and I work on his IEW writing book while my eldest works on all of his charts. Once my second born is on his set course I turn to the eldest and we work on his key word outline or 1st draft, etc. I ask him to diagram the same sentence we looked at during morning time and explain each part to me. My 2nd born is usually finished by 3pm. He proceeds to run down his independent work loop. My eldest takes about 45 minutes- 1 hour to finish his Essentials work depending on the day. He takes a 30 minute break.
The Final Hour
At this point the younger brothers are back and my middle two go work on their relationship with a relationship building game or project I give them. I work with my youngest son on some more therapies while my eldest does his independent loop work. We gather one last time to sing a song of thanksgiving, review what we accomplished, encourage one another and end in prayer.
The Blessing Hour
The children clean while I make dinner. It does not always last a whole hour. Most days it only takes them 20 minutes to right everything and then they are receiving the blessing of rest and play.
Dinner is discipleship time. We pray together, discuss the bible or current events. We TALK TOGETHER. We share a meal and we sometimes close out by having Dad read us a book. We love family dinner. Its the best part of our day. If you want to implement something like this in your home I highly recommend Sally Clarkson’s latest book “The Life-giving Table.”
Our boys regularly participate in a sport which requires practice multiple nights of the week. During this much needed time of exercise and friendship, I get to read books. I am a big fan of sports now.
Once a week my children have music lessons after lunch so we slide those study slots around a bit to make room for lessons.
Fridays are our adventure days! We begin with morning time and immediately go into our Music study with Beautiful Feet Books. Once that is done we pack up our bags and head out for a nature walk or trip with our local nature group. When we return we have our afternoon Symposium (an extended tea time/morning time conversation) and wrap up with our Friday Exam.