Classical Conversations Cycle 3: Before Week 1.

We started our Cycle 3 American History year a week early because VIKINGS (+ other awesome explorers). Here is a look at what we did.


First, we enjoyed some of our favorite viking stories which included:
Leif the Lucky by Ingri D’allaire
Eric the Red and Leif the Lucky by Barbara Schiller
Into the Unknown by Stewart Ross
Viking Adventure by Clyde Robert Bulla

We also used our wonderful history spine “A Child’s First Book of American History” by Earl Miers.

I read these books aloud while the boys made Viking longships out of modeling beeswax. This beeswax is a bit pricey BUT it lasts a great deal longer than playdoh, I had my last box for two years, and it smells amazing! I really love setting out a welcoming invitation for my kids to come and learn. I light a candle, put a few play silks on the table, I give them the beeswax, their composition notebooks and a bunch of art supplies. Then I step back and let them do as they wish with the materials. One boy made a mermaid (complete with seashell bra). This had absolutely nothing to do with Vikings, but he wanted to make a mermaid he could giggle over and he gave an absolutely lovely narration so I let it go. The mermaid was not a hill I wanted to die on. I’ve found that when I nitpick about too many things in their schoolwork, the boys shut down fast. They like to lead the way in learning, they love to make decisions, so I evaluate our time and find the crucial day-shaping decisions and I make those–the rest I leave to them. We are all happier for it.


After I posted our Charlotte Mason Approach to Cycle 3 posts for Quarter 1 and Quarter 2, I had a number of people asking for my list of rare living books. I didn’t post them earlier because some of these are extremely hard to find (read: ridiculously expensive) and I never want to send the message that you need to drop $125 on ONE book or else your child will have an inferior education. Cuz guys, you don’t need to drop all that money on one book. There is an ABUNDANCE of books available on these topics and you do not need to drop a fortune on one subject. If I had a limited budget I would purchase or borrow the Mier’s book and the D’Aulaire book and call it a day. But for everyone wanting the list of vintage living books we used, here is a handy dandy bookscape of all the book porn. Please know that most of these books came from our local living library and the others were rescued by me for just a couple dollars. We are not millionaires. We are a single income homeschool family. Keep your eyes open at book sales, library sales, estate sales for these gems. If you have the chance, be a book rescuer!

By the end of the week we were ready to move on and we spent a nice chunk of time reading about the early days of Columbus. Remember that we spent this summer reading  “They Put Out to Sea” by Roger Dusoivin, which is the story of how our world map was slowly put together through expedition and discovery. This has sparked an Explorer Frenzy in our home. We have read in depth about everyone from the Phoenicians to Marco Polo to Henry Cabot. This week we read about Amerigo Vespucci, Vasco de Gama and Magellan. The boys were so captivated by these stories! They loved to hear the perspectives of other explorers in and around Columbus’ day. History told from several different perspectives is so powerful. The Genevieve Foster books are particularly wonderful with this idea.  We also read “The Story of Chocolate” to understand the history behind one of the goods being traded in this time period. We are big fans of chocolate and we were riveted by this story. The boys loved including two or three pages of illustrations and narrations on chocolate in their history journals. We enjoyed some while we read, of course.


Most of our explorer research was done using Gerrard Discovery Biographies which the boys read independently. I found a box of 40 books at a library sale for $10 a few years ago. We adore the writing for this reading level. My eldest children (age 9 & 8) read for one solid hour each afternoon. They loved reading these biographies so much they would ask for them in the evenings as well, bringing their independent reading to almost 2 hours each day. It sounds crazy when I write that, but with little bits here and there added to that solid one hour chunk, they are getting a lot of reading in! A few years ago I wasn’t sure if this would ever happen for us, but I kept faithfully reading aloud to my children every single day and I have watched a love for reading grow within them. From a tiny flame to a full on blaze, it is the slow work of many days that has brought us to this place.


We studied history every day because we are geeking out over it right now. Other subjects we did every single day? Math, Latin, Spelling, Writing and 2 minutes of Geography.  Our current lunchtime reads are  1) The Burgess Bird Book for Children and 2) Sherlock Holmes.

We are continuing to move forward in our mathematics with Right Start Math and I am still singing its praises. Teach multiple levels with this curriculum is so doable! Here is how we do it:

We all sit down with our math  materials and we open up with a game that all three children (9,8 and 6) can play using our Right Start Math games book to build our math fluency. After a couple of rounds (5-10 minutes) I hand my six year old a slate of sums to practice while my eldest children run through their skip counting and the opening portion of mental math questions found in each lesson (>5 minutes). By the time they are done my 6 year old is usually finished with his sums. I take his slate and hand him his wooden pattern blocks to build large geometric shapes or animals with. As he plays and explores shapes, I teach the new material to my older children. This takes about 10 minutes, 15 at most. They open their workbooks and complete their sums practice or work page as needed. I turn to my six year old and admire his creation. He explains what he has made and we look for and name geometric shapes he has made. The I open his book and we run through mental math and skip counting. I teach his new lesson which takes about 10 minutes. By this point the older children have finished their work and they are ready for it to be checked. My six year old dives into his workbook. I check the older children’s work and we walk through any corrections that need to be made. Once this task is complete the six year old is ready for his work to be checked.  We wrap our time together by playing one more game.  Math takes about 45 minutes total for both levels of math. This include 2-3 games, skip counting, mental math problems, two new lessons, worksheets if applicable, pattern block play, and sums practice.  Guys, I never ever ever thought I would say this, but math is fun! I’ll be sharing a bit about our favorite lessons each week from here on out!

We devoted 20 minutes to our Latin studies each day. The boys practiced their respective instruments for about 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening.  We also take about 20 minutes to work on our Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level A Spelling program. Between each subject they are still racking up 15-30 minutes of play time depending on their age. Multiply that by 4-6 learning block each day and you’ve got a nice chunk of free play!

The boys worked on their independent loops which included:
Handwriting (cursive)
Pin it Maps


Our Morning Time for this cycle opens each morning with prayer, scripture meditation (one verse that changes every three weeks), recitation of the creed and prayer requests.  We take a couple minutes to work on our CC Geography (Literally two minutes). We eat breakfast and then dive into our morning time loop.
This week’s loop:
Poetry– The Lamplighter by Robert Louis Stevenson (older boys)
Celery (IEW Poetry Memorization) for youngest son’s speech therapy
Spanish- Speaking Spanish with Miss Mason and Francois
Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare by E Nesbit
Architecture- A Child’s History of Art by Hillyer
Hymn- O God Our Help in Ages Past Verse 1
Art Study- Leonardo daVinci
Character Study from Animals in Nature

On Fridays we use Beautiful Feet Book’s Music Study in the morning. We are enjoying this study ever so slowly (I anticipate a two year time frame on this one) and we simply adore it.  I’ll be sharing more in depth about this one next week! Their Geography study, History of Science study and Horse study are gorgeous as well. Check them out!


The CM week is not complete without a nature walk. Its hot as blazes here right now and usually “nature walk” = “sit in lukewarm water” but this past Friday was nice and overcast so we took a walk.


We spent the first half of our walk tracking a raccoon. For my boys this was the highlight of the day. Follow a raccoon around, find a pile of his scat and feel like a king. Find the remnants of his crayfish lunch and loose your mind with excitement. We also found gorgeous mole cricket tunnels (which look a bit like subnivean tunnels for all you northerners) and we raced around trying to find the point of origin.


We rounded out the week with lots and lots of baking. Have I mentioned that my children are officially British Baking Show junkies? They have become food critics overnight and love to whip things up in the kitchen. My splurge for the year was a subscription to Raddish kids and I am loving the resulting  independence and confidence in my children’s cooking skills. They each took a turn baking something fun while I taught the other children their new set of chores for the year. My eldest children are doing their own laundry start to finish now. I love writing that sentence as much as I hate doing all the laundry for six people. The six year old is almost done learning how to unstack the dishwasher and my little guy is in broom bootcamp right now.

We are so excited to dive into our Week 1 material for Cycle 3 this week. Who else is doing cycle 3? What are some of your favorite reads leading up to this cycle? Share in the comments below!

MFW ECC: France


We had a spectacular sunset on the last day of our France study. It was just after dinner when my son noticed the brilliant orange and red shadows on our living room curtains. We ran outside together, jumped the back fence and raced out to the water’s edge. Whenever we have dry lightning storms at sunset, the sky becomes incredibly rich in its contrasting colors. We saw intense red, gold, orange and yellow against brooding black and charcoal gray. It looked ominous and glorious all at once. We saw a flock of ibis flying east and a flock of roseate spoonbills heading west. A kingfisher made his dinner dive and we were nearly ecstatic over the sight of a rare snail kite soaring over our heads. But that sunset, of that sunset made us giddy. We had looked through some of Van Gogh’s work as we were discussing the Montmartre earlier that day. The minute my son saw the full scope of this sunset he let out a joyous little whoop and called to me, “Mom! Its a Van Gogh! Look! We just read about him and now the sky is a Van Gogh!”

Homeschooling is hard and sometimes I wonder/worry what the effect will be on my relationship with each of my children. Moments like the above are a gift from God. Granted, they are not always so flashy and obvious, but He still gives them to me. I tuck them in my heart to remember on days when feelings are hurt, tears run and personalities are at war. I love that we were able to share such a glorious moment together. A few days after this sunset we were reading another book that briefly mentioned Van Gogh. Immediately I raised my eyes and looked at my son, he grinned and gave me a little wink. We are now permanently bonded over Van Gogh. We’ll never be able to look at his work again without remembering that moment.


In our effort to learn French culture, I told the kids we would be slowing down even more than we already have. We would learn to linger well over truth, goodness and beauty. This resulted in some epically long morning time breakfast gatherings. We read so many books together (booklist at the end of the post!), enjoyed at least three pots of tea at each sitting and ate way more treats than we should have.

After reading a lovely little story about life in the french countryside, we decided to have a countryside day. We baked fresh bread and chopped veggies for soup, made a batch of lotion and some chapstick, diffused lots of lavender and read about the production of essential oil, and hand rolled beeswax tapers for our table this autumn and winter (while learning about bees!). The boys loved this particular activity. The smell is so warm and comforting and they loved getting to work on something meaningful for our home. Its good to feel useful, isn’t it?


A few readers have asked about our “unstandardized testing” method, so I thought I would share a bit on this recap about how its done at our house.

First, I cover our table in butcher paper (I purchased a very large roll on Amazon nearly 3 years ago and have yet to run out). Next I give the boys several pastels and beeswax crayons. I choose 7 topics for them to illustrate and work on. This week they illustrated: Heidi on the Alps, a coniferous forest, acid rain effects, the cathedral in Rouen, a cave and its lifeforms, trabecular bone structure grid, and the Eiffel tower. While drawing, they recited their poetry work, scripture memory work, Classical Conversations memory work and they narrated portions of our reading from Spyri’s “Heidi.” I also gave a verbal spelling test to each child. Once the illustrations were completed, the boys went through each one and explained what they were, what they learned and the significance of each one.

My second born (age 7) explained the white stone structure of the cathedral in Rouen. We studied Monet’s painting of this building earlier in the week and then read through David Macaulay’s “Cathedral.” My son pointed out a few architectural elements, their purpose and significance and then talked about Monet’s painting, use of light and its effects on the white stone. He then talked a bit about Monet and the impressionist movement. We studied Monet for close to three months so he is now able to talk about him comfortably. There is great benefit to a slower learning that promotes savoring.


My eldest discussed the Eiffel tower. Happily, our morning time history book, “Stories of the Nations” by Lorene Lambert, gave us a fascinating account of Gustave Eiffel’s life and his construction of the tower. This story captivated my son to such a degree that we spent an entire afternoon learning all about the construction of the tower and its similarities to the human trabecular bone structure. (Aside: I know I have mentioned “Stories of the Nations” before, but I must once again express just how meaningful and enriching this book has been in our ECC study this year. Each chapter is only 2-3 pages long and takes just a few minutes to read at the table each morning. It has captured even my 5 year old and the children have had this beautiful experience listening to the history of the world spread out in an engaging way.)

Our entire “test” took a little over an hour and the boys were so proud and eager to show off what they knew and what they had absorbed throughout the week. The idea of testing to find out what someone does not know is a bit foreign to them and so they look forward to these afternoons of sharing. Once the paper is unrolled I have an opportunity to listen and evaluate what they have retained, what peaked their interest, what was valuable to them and exactly why certain pieces of information were deemed important by them. This helps me in my future planning and gives me a great gauge for where we have been and what we have moved forward with.


For this country study, we decided to really focus in on Art and Food. Big surprise, I know! I tried to tempt them to look at fashion (how cute are these Chanel paper dolls?) but no one took me up on it. One of my favorite Instagram accounts belongs to Terri Woods of @Woodsermom. A few weeks ago she recommended a beautiful book called, “Painting Pepette,” about a little French girl that wants a portrait done of her stuffed bunny. She ventures out to the Montmarte and encounters an assortment of artists that each paint a portrait of the little bunny and very different styles. The book is quite charming. Woodsermom had asked her children to paint on subject in the style of four different painters, so we followed suite. We chose my son’s stuffed hummingbird “Hummy” as our subject and once again the butcher paper and all the art supplies came out.  We listened to beautiful music and spent several hours (I was bit shocked at how long they lingered over this) painting, drawing, watercoloring, sketching and sculpting. We took a virtual tour of the Louvre afterwards.


The internet is incredible (and horrible). How neat to be able to find 360 degree tours of buildings in France or a view of the city from the top of the Eiffel tower? Check out Napoleon Bonaparte’s house!

Lastly, we just had to watch “Ratatouille” and make our own recipe for lunch one day. They wanted to eat their meal with crusty bread and hot chocolate. This would be a fun activity to pair alongside the marshmallow Eiffel Tower, or an apple chunks Eiffel Tower is you want healthy disgruntled children.

Confession: I am a bit behind in posting, we have already finished Germany! I’ll be sure to post our recap of that study soon. Thanks for following along!

France Study Booklist:
Adele and Simon by Barbara McClintock
Anatole by Eve Titus
Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During the Holocaust by Karen Grey Ruelle
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
Monet by Mike Venezia
Paul Cezanne by Mike Venezia
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit  by Judith Kerr
Twenty and Ten by Claire Bishop
Marguerite Makes a Book by Bruce Robertson
Kate Meets the Impressionists by James Mayhew
Joan of Arc by Demi

MFW ECC Brazil

On the night before we began our study of Brazil and South America, the Olympics began. Totally unplanned. It was so much fun to see the opening ceremony and watch a presentation of Brazil’s history unfold before our eyes.


We loved hearing the music too! The boys asked me to find some more Brazilian music and we began by listening to Putumayo Kid’s Present Brazilian Playground and the Bossa Nova tunes of Sergio Mendez.

Of course another highlight was the world parade. We tried to find each country on the map as they were announced. I was greatly encouraged to hear how much the boys have already retained.  It also peaked the boys interest in the world flags.


In an effort to avoid an enormous post covering three weeks worth of school work, I will share how we did our Geography & Culture work for this unit and then a few tidbits and other resources for a few other subjects.

Geography work for South America consisted of several things. First, I made extra copies of a map of South American with clear black line borders and little else. Every day the boys would sit down, and fill in all the countries they could remember onto their maps. Then I would hand them a correctly filled out map and they would check their work. Then they would add two new countries and we would recite the countries again and I would switch back and forth between asking, “Show me ____” and “Tell me what this is?”  I would only quiz them on countries they had filled in so far. The next day, they would receive a brand new map to fill in from memory, check their work and add a few more in. By the middle of the second week of Brazil study, they could fill in the entire map correctly. I learned of this method from Sonya Schafer at the last homeschool conference I attended and its really worked for us.


We would reinforce our work by building  geography puzzles (note: We purchased ours on Zulily for $19) and using the Geography game that comes with ECC. I love this simple game. The boys have learned so much using it and I like that I can walk away and they are confident enough to play and learn on their own while I work with the other two kids. We often close out Geography time by reading “Around the World in 80 Pages“which gives us a closer look at all the other countries in the continent we are currently visiting.


Cultural study has taken many forms this year. Again, we have to acknowledge that they cannot walk away from this year experts on every single world culture, so I am not stressing out about reading  every single “Welcome to >Insert Country’s Name<” book the library has to offer. I am looking for my kids to make heart connections with the people in these far away lands. So in the first few days of encountering a new country/continent, I spread out the “delectable feast.” A variety of books about the country. Culture study, a cookbook, travel books, biome information, indigenous peoples book, and a books about crafts or fine arts. I play some culturally appropriate music and they sit down and dig in. Its really important to me that they get to follow their interests and seek out treasure to dig out and claim for themselves. Its so much more meaningful than randomly reading out statistics. They get to notebook whatever they have discovered and then they get to present the information to us.  They often go in completely different directions. This week my eldest went from tapirs to butterflies to brazilwood to the Yanomami tribes to homemade dye. He had to make his own a few days later and paint a rainforest picture with it afterwards.


As the days progress I incorporate living books about the country. We had several favorites this study that really drew us in and made us feel like we were there! Check out our book list at the end of this post.


The boys have been keeping science notebooks this year with illustrations and narrations from our work with the Usborne Living Science Encyclopedia. We continue to use Biome cards and animal ecology study work from Pin it! Maps. (Check out the free teaching materials tab!)


Based off of their interest, they spent several days learning about the variety of bird beaks in the world, while I avoided all of the laundry in the house. They were fascinated by all the new information garnered and when we went for a visit to our local zoo’s Amazon section, they were calling out all the different kinds of beaks they saw.  Some of their new artwork for their ornithology albums came out so lovely. Its especially encouraging to this art challenged mother to see our diligent work paying off little by little. We are still using Drawing with Children since we had to hold off for a long time on it until we were ready. I am so glad we waited! Its been much more fruitful now.

We also got a bit of sensory fun added in with a prepared “Smells of the Rainforest” Tray featuring things like cinnamon, cacao, coffee, hibiscus, etc. (Check out Mirus Toys for sensory activities and bird beaks study)

Last bit of information for science, we found these beautiful insect and butterfly cards for FREE here. (Thanks Eltern Vom Mars!) which we used during our brief look at entomology. We also spent time with our CC Science work, learning all about biomes and consumers.


During our second week we decided to catalogue all the edible natives in our farm along with all other fruit bearing plants on the property. It was so grand to realize how many dietary options we have should political anarchy ever shut down all grocery stores. Our nature walks have been so brief lately due to the tremendous heat index down here. We are doing our best to get outside in some way, but the time is always short. Unless…


We hit the beach.


Now that is my kind of nature walk in the dead of August!!! I know once the tropical weather calms the heck down we will have plenty of time to do more nature walks. Until then, nature walk = farm and beach and books. And that is ok! Next month we will resume our walks and we will be starting “Blaze New Trails” an adventure guide by Holly Giles of The Giles Frontier as part of our nature study experience. We’ll let you know how it goes! (PS If you are studying Little House in the Big Woods this year at all, check out Holly’s “County Fair” study. Its darling and I can’t wait to use it over summer break next year!)

Brazil was a three week behemoth. It was fun, but we were so excited to move onto Norway. A few other things that happened outside of Brazil during our three week study?

LOTS of practical life work. How to change a lightbulb, how to sew a button, how to load the dishwasher, how to get a cookbook and finish a recipe from start to finish (Check out Mollie Kazan’s Honest Pretzels) to name a few.  I am reminded that there are many, many things I do doing the day that could really be taken on by someone else now. Someone much shorter than me and way eager to help and learn. It takes time to teach new skills, but this intentional investment of time is so very worth it!


The boys are still working on their pottery skills with their teacher and I love the glow they get when working at something difficult and worthy.


Our knitting projects have all but wrapped up and we are starting to venture out into the world of knitting socks. Four needles!? Yowza! And my second born has started embroidering, which is fun but a bit maddening when he gets stuck and I have to jump in and figure out where he is. My eldest still shows very little interest in this sort of handiwork so he has picked up more Paper Sloyd and is enjoying completing some beautiful work on his free time.

I am grateful once more that my children get to fully experience that wonderful, fleeting bit of magic known as childhood. Not everyone gets to and I am so thankful they have one.  I continually remind myself to make time for them to just be children–to have joy and wonder and space to ponder.


I am also thankful God brought us to homeschooling. There will be many dropped balls and missed academic goals and fumbled parenting moments, but I am so secure in walking this path God has called us to because of His merciful reaffirmations and bountiful grace in leading us. I have complete faith that Christ has a plan for my children and their lives. They belong to Him. Our calling is not conditional upon how many lesson plans are completed or how many baskets of laundry are completed each week.  I get to beat back the devil’s lies and whispers with the TRUTH of victory already won. Thank God for that! See you all in Norway!

Brazil Book List:
The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry
The Rain Forest Grew All Around by Susan Mitchell
Up and Down the Andes by Laurie Krebs
Biblioburro by  Jeanette Winter
Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown
The Tapir Scientist by Sy Montgomery
A Mango in the Hand: A Story told through Proverbs by Antonio Sacre
Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl (4th grade +)
Welcome to the Green House by Jane Yolen
The Umbrella by Jan Brett (Costa Rica, but we were late in reading it. Rain Forest Biome fit though)
Nature’s Green Umbrella by Gail Gibbons
Slowly, Slowly, Slowly Said the Sloth by Eric Carle

Rain Forest by Ben Morgan (SUCH gorgeous photography!)

MFW ECC: Introduction Part 1


Our “first day of school” picture this year was a group shot. I usually like to do individual pictures, but the weeks leading up to our first day of school were so crazy, that I just did not have time to organize something fancy. So instead, we made the trek into the city and posed in front of our favorite piece of city art with one of our favorite brainiacs. Welcome to third grade boys!

The week leading up to third grade was spent at our local Classical Conversations practicum, hence the craziness leading up to the start of school.  The boys were enrolled in Geography Drawing camp and they had a wonderful time. I loved that it served so nicely as an “introduction before the introduction” to Exploring Countries and Cultures.  They came into this week already knowing the continents song, four oceans song, compass rose, latitude and longitude, basic map reading skills and measuring scale and distance.  The week flew by, and before we knew it, Monday morning dawned and it was time to get back to school!


We begin each day with our Morning Basket Time or “Morning Meeting.” We gather for breakfast and spend about 30 minutes together. Here is what I do during that time:

4 minutes: Utilize our maps to practice current country study
6 minutes: Read from our family devotion (Right now its Clay Clarkson’s “Our 24 Family Ways“)
7 minutes: Read from one of our mornings reads (See the list here)
6 minutes: Fine Arts Study (See below)
4 minutes: Talk about the upcoming day. Discuss any departures from the home or any major chores that need to be done. Review the day before and have any necessary discussions regarding expectation or course correction.
3 minutes: Close in prayer, put breakfast dishes in the dishwasher, and proceed with the day!

Now our Morning Fine Arts time is kept very, very simple. We do something different every day. We have our hymn study for the year from Simply Charlotte Mason. The boys are learning “I Sing the Mighty Power of God” by Isaac Watts these next few weeks. The hymn study is ongoing for the whole year.

We will spend three months with Chopin using Music Study with the Masters and living books on Chopin by Opal Wheeler. We are also spending the next three months with Monet using this study pack from Simply Charlotte Mason.  As you can see from the time allotments, the study is quite brief. We don’t deconstruct every painting we look at, we appreciate and become very familiar with it. We become so accustomed to Chopin that when we are out and about and a previously unheard piece by Chopin reaches our ears, the boys perk up and say, “Hey! I bet thats Chopin! It sounds just like him!” The artist and composer are changed out every three months.


Based on other reports of low pretest scores, I went into the day anticipating low scores on our country identification pretest. My children definitely did not get every country, but they performed much higher than I had anticipated in part because of their time in Classical Conversations and also their frequent use of Pin it! Maps. There is still much to be learned, however, and they are eager to take on the task. I was careful to keep my face completely neutral, even when they missed countries I KNEW they knew.


We spent that first morning playing with globes and maps and talking about traveling. They filled out their “passports” and filled in a few dates from Maps and Globes into their individual book of centuries. (We use spiral bound timeline notebooks from Miller Pads and Paper). It was definitely a week of light mornings, which the boys greatly enjoyed. We completed a lesson from our Saxon 3 math each day and spent a couple of days in our Memoria Press Latin books.

Our summers are so abysmally hot and often full of torrential rains that we are indoors much of the time. In the afternoons, during the worst rainstorms, we like to cozy up together and have tea and treats and poetry. “PoetTreats” is a great favorite of theirs. Its something small I can do to bless their hearts and show them my love and care and complete attention. I set the table and put out my fanciest tea cups. We pour oh so many cups of tea and we read our favorite poems over and over again. Its silly and special and lovely. Note the absence of our preschooler in this photo, he is typically asleep during teatime, which is why its teatime and not disaster relief time.  People sometimes remark that my boys are “weird” for liking teatime. Well, tea is enjoyed by most men around the world and no one bats an eye at that. Tea is not just lace and pearls and flowers, its warm drink, a bite to eat and good conversation. Its a restful pause in the middle of one’s day and can be appreciated by anyone because tea, like breakfast, lunch or dinner, is about as gender neutral as it gets, in my opinion.


In the early afternoons, the boys like to work on handwriting, enjoy independent reading hour, work on their handicrafts (currently its simple basket weaving or knitting) or choose a fun hands on activity. My eldest has been enjoying Pin it! Maps Land and Water forms map lately, which I love.

We read “God Speaks Numanggang” at the dinner table and my husband and I both cried. Our eldest was so moved he is now asking how he can aide in bible translation and is dreaming of which countries he can travel to in order to take on this heavy work. We are surprising them next month with a trip to the Wycliffe headquarters in Orlando.


My third born is currently in MFW Kindergarten and hit the unit Uu-Us this week. So on top of a study of the five senses, I threw in a little world culture to tie the week together. The cards on the wall are eeBoo Children of the World Artist Cards, they are no longer on Amazon, but do pop up occasionally on Zulily. The boys all had fun enjoying this little corner of the classroom this week.


We had great fun with all of our read alouds this week. I always begin geography study with a lesson from Charlotte Mason’s Elementary Geography and then add in our read alouds afterward. Aside from the listed reading selections in the back of the ECC teacher’s manual, you can find more wonderful books about the world using Jamie Martin and Tsh Oxenreider’s new book, “Give Your Child the World,” which has excellent book lists inside for every region of the world.  I’ve included our read  alouds this week in our booklist at the end of this post.


The boys have opted to make art books for their geography terms instead of flash cards. I may illustrate some flash cards just for review as the year ambles on.


We continue to use Half a Hundred Acre Wood’s excellent blob maps throughout our year. The boys sometimes blob in other places too. I love how the blob map turned out on our plexiglass easel. He was able to position the easel so that the wall map was in his line of sight and then he transferred the continents by their correct position onto the easel. Spontaneous, fun, hands on exercises like this are always my favorite and turn out way better than anything I lay out in my plans because it is child-led and therefore they are determined to do it!

My second born chose to work on the World Water and Landforms map during this time, which gives specific form names to pin in the proper place, (i.e. Nile River, Danube River, Mount Kilimanjaro, etc.) This is the next map we move onto after the generic Land and Water forms Map which names geographical features.


At the end of the week we pulled out our synchronological map of history and had a look at how all the cultures and countries of the world tie together throughout history. The boys could look at this enormous timeline for hours. I love hearing them call out different events they are familiar with and then discover what else was happening at that time.

IMG_7133 2.JPG
Well, if you’re a long time reader, you probably noticed that we were hardly outside this week, which is unusual for us. It has been seriously hot and muggy and the rain has been nonstop. The weather has been so bad that we had to skip much of our science study this week with the exception of our niche project. Our specimen decided to poo right before my youngest’s turn to hold him. You can see from his face that his mind was changed very quickly!

Now here is the confession…..

I really dislike the Complete Book of Animals. My boys do not like busy work or meaningless hand outs and this is essentially a book of handouts. Even the pull-out “story books” are not actually stories but dry informational pamphlets. We will not be using this book for ECC. (No offense to any CBOA believers out there—if your child loves it, that is GREAT!)

We will stick with Properties of Ecosystems and I am currently on the hunt for a better animal study. Chances are I will end up pulling something together for the boys. If anyone has a recommendation, please let us know in the comments below.


Lastly, a look at this years art enrichment—pottery! I have zero talent in this area, I am thankful to have found local talent with a patient nature and nurturing heart. Lani has been wonderful in teaching my boys and they have greatly enjoyed her class. I am thankful that they have access to this. A word of encouragement for anyone without the means or resources, take a careful look around you. Is there anyone in your sphere with a gift of some sort? Someone that can play an instrument, knit or crochet? Someone with the knowledge of a specific skill set that can be (and should be!) passed down to other generations? See if that person would be willing to teach your child. If its a fellow homeschool mother or father, see if they would be willing to barter. Perhaps you can teach their children something in exchange for your children’s lessons with those friends. Get creative! Not everything has to happen at a professional studio with a packaged price rate.  Most skills in the world are passed down through relationship within community. Maybe your pastor would be willing to teach Greek to a few children once a week? Perhaps the church worship pastor would be willing to teach a guitar lesson once a week. Maybe there are older generations in the church that would be blessed by the company of older children looking to learn from them? Perhaps there is a neighbor or a friend that would be willing to teach your children something. You’ll never know until you ask. Pray beforehand and see what God can do!

On to week 2!!!!

Week 1 Booklist:
As the Crow Flies: A First Book of Maps by Gail Hartman
Akebu to Zapotec by June Hathersmith
People by Peter Spier
Around the World in 80 pages by Antony Mason
One Well: The Story of Water on Earth by Rochelle Strauss
Somewhere in the World Right Now by Stacey Shuett
Maps and Scale Drawings by Marion Smoothey
From Here to There by Margery Cuyler
People and Places by Gerard Cheshire
Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney
Celebrations by Anabel Kindersley

MFW Adventures: Morse & Human Body

The boys spent many long and cozy hours indoors this week. Our dry season has turned out to be nearly as wet as the rainy season. Large storms keep sweeping across our area and we find ourselves grateful to be snug indoors with few places to go during the week.


We finished up our time studying the human body by filling in the last pages of our Dover coloring books and completing the last two experiments in the Magic School Bus Anatomy kit.


Our Anatomy tray was out quite often and the boys really cemented their identification of the organs. We also brought out our magiscope and looked at hair, blood, cell and saliva samples.


We brought out one of our very favorite board games, SOME BODY and played a dozen rounds throughout the coarse of the week. We highly recommend this one. Even if your children aren’t old enough to play with the questions cards, they can place the reusable stickers on their body board and become familiar with the layout of our organ systems.




We read three books on Samuel Morse and the boys made these darling Morse code name necklaces out of leftover holiday paper straws and the remaining pony beads from our Native American study.


They were intrigued by Morse’s designs and spent one rainy afternoon trying to get a piece of twine to absorb an electric charge from the carpet in their bedroom, in order to make the pencil on the other end of the twine write secret messages.  After hours of failed attempts we settled for some work on our Snap Circuits board.

In other news, we finaly, FINALLY, reached our state during state study! (How do people residing in the last two states deal with the wait?) We ventured out at the first sign of sunshine. Our local trails were inundated with water which made our adventure extra challenging for the boys. They adored it!


We found a fern gully on this particular outing that really captured our imaginations. The boys wanted to crawl under the ferns and set up little homes. I’m half-tempted to move there once the rain stops.





I am so grateful for our nature walks. They have turned out to be the most enriching part of our homeschool journey. Everything we learn seems to flourish when we step out onto the trail. I love watching the boys make connections between math and music and geography and latin and history and science as they walk along a mucky path listening to the sounds of the wetlands.

When we return home, out come the nature journals and colored pencils. We use prismacolors for our most important work. They are definitely pricey but worth it for the quality of the product. The boys know they must take special care of these art tools and have demonstrated great responsibility in caring for them.


The insect cards pictured above are $4 laminated printables from the talented Alice Cantrell.


We are officially 10 weeks away from completing our Adventures. There are many updates to record here. I’ll be posting a few updates in the near future about how we make the most of our nature walks. Week 25 here we come!

MFW Adventures: Fulton & Stain Glass


Greetings & Salutations!

The garden is in, my friends. No sooner had we turned our backs on those lovely beds than the heavens began to pour out rain. All our seedlings seem to have doubled in size the past week thanks to the ceaseless rains.

Unit #21 brought our merry group of adventurers to Robert Fulton and his Steamship.

Day 1: I read out of the recommended book basket list and set the boys loose in the yard with 4 kiddie tubs and an assortment of plastic trash. Empty bottles, milk jugs, egg cartons, straws and robber bands. They had a marvelous time constructing their own “steamships.”  This eventually led to us hauling out one of our Usbourne science books and executing another round of “sink or float” with other backyard items. unnamed-3.jpg

Day 2: We hauled out tons of books and encyclopedias that catalogued various ships throughout the ages. The boys looked at “Into the Unknown” by Stewart Ross and copied his diagram of the steam engine along with a few other pictures of steamships detailed within.

“Into the Unknown” by Stewart Ross

This was intense work for the boys. They took notes and later spent two hours drawing highly weaponized steamships.

Day 3:
Origami style steamboats! Thanks to Chaos Meets Creativity for the link!

Kreativ inredning

While we folded ships my youngest two tackled their own projects. Give the three year old an entire sheet of tissue paper and a glue stick–it will buy you at least 20 minutes!


The 5 year old was content to light up his Christmas trees with the correct number of red and white pony beads.


Day 4:
After finishing our state sheets, the boys did a little more work on their nature journals. On this day they transferred one of the public speaking presentations from our last week of the semester at our Classical Conversations Community. I love when they work so carefully and meticulously.




Day 5:
Thanks to the delightful “A Year of Playing Skillfully,” the boys and I discovered the lovely idea of window painting. My Adventurers join in almost every AYoPS activity and this was not to be missed.

We wiped down our sliding glass door, mixed the paint, layed out our painting blanket to catch any wayward drops of color and set to work!


We recently looked through our London Gallery Nativity book which featured several diptychs of the nativity. With two large glass panels at our disposal, we all agreed to make our own “Stain Glass” diptych featuring the nativity. The 5 year old was our creative director. He loves “Starry Night” and it quite obviously influenced his work.



We ended the day with a little sensory therapy in the form of homemade peppermint playdoh. It was worth the 20 minute make time. Peace on earth for over an hour!


We are on track to finish Adventures by the end of March. We’ll spend the rest of the month enjoying advent, studying The Nutcracker and prepping for our “Adventures in US History” Road Trip!

Art Appreciation + Resource List

“We cannot measure the influence that one or another artist has upon the child’s sense of beauty, upon his power of seeing, as in a picture, the common sights of life; he is enriched more than we know in having really looked at even a single picture.”—Charlotte Mason

I want art to be a part of the mold that serves to shape my children into the adults they will one day be.

Art trains our eyes to behold life with wonder. Studying art adds texture to our history timeline. Art adds depth to stories and breathes life into our everyday academics. Art provides a space for souls to encounter and reflect.  Art calls us to create. Art is a valuable and worthy use of our time.

Teaching children to appreciate art felt like a daunting prospect when I first started. While my lovely sister was always supremely gifted with art, I was gifted in the art of hacking together a *good enough* project. I could *kind of* make art. I certainly knew how to appreciate various forms of art, but in the execution department, I was sorely lacking. When it came time to teach my children, I felt a bit overwhelmed and more than a little underprepared.


One child loved art, one child hated it. One child loved to make and break, one child could not bear to touch anything weird. One child loved Picasso and Monet, one child repeatedly asked “is this over yet?”

IMG_4479All of them are growing to love and appreciate art.

When did that happen? It happened over time. Growing up with art takes time.
If you’ve been following, you know I am not a “Top Ten Ways to” or “How to Perfect…” kind of blogger. But I do love me some philosophy of Education. After tons and tons of reading over the years, I have learned to approach any subject I teach like some weird Classical/Charlotte Mason Ninja with Montessori-ish throwing stars sporting a Fred Rogers Tshirt. Whether its the Trivium, or Charlotte’s 4 R’s (Reading, Reasoning, Relating, Recording), when I approach something I have a system in mind and a mantle of compassion and grace balanced precariously on my shoulders. Ahem, and *reinforcements in the pantry. *Read: chocolate and wine.
For me, Art is all about the E’s.

Expose, Encounter, Explore, Express, Emulate.

This is, somehow, the simplest and most difficult of all the steps. There has to be a purposeful step taken towards including quality art in your home. You have to go out of your way to bring it inside. You have to decide to mix it into your everyday life.
The paintings pictured above are part of an art study called, Enjoying Art Together, from My Father’s World. They helped me get the ball rolling back in the days of little to no quality art. I would hold up one painting before breakfast and lunch. I would not say a word. I would just hold it up and the kids would look at it. I would display it on the server next to our table between meals. I would leave the other paintings around the house where the kids would find them. Art books and puzzles started popping up around the house. Art sprang up around the home wherever the kids looked. They lived with art.
Then I cracked open the books and read stories. My goal was to engage them with each painting. I started to ask questions, “What colors are used in this painting? How does that color make you feel? What are these people doing? Is it sunny where they are? How do you know?” Then they asked each other questions. They would look and look into a painting until they came up with a story about each one. Some stories were quite lovely, I will never forget my eldest son’s interpretation of Renoir’s “A girl with a watering can,” it was simple and heart achingly sweet. Nor will I forget my cheeky four year old’s story about Jackson Pollock’s “Blue Poles.”

“Forest made of spaghetti, my name is Blue and I DON’T like you. You show up on my plate on Thursdays and I wish you were tacos. Stop making me into blue forks, when all I want is to be free to love a taco.” 

Deep stuff, I know.

Surface value questions that lead to internal interpretation of what the artwork relates to them. That is pretty much the goal.

We start to look into how these pieces of art were made. I call their attention to certain elements. I slip in vocabulary words and touch on techniques. They repeat words back to me and then the new questions start. Michelangelo used marble? Where did it come from? How long did it take to haul out each piece? How long did he train to do this? What were his days like and how did that impact what he made? What other sculptures did he make? Do you have a favorite?

Lets think about these cave paintings. Where did all the different colors come from? What materials can we gather if we were to make this painting? Could we make this painting in another form? How would it look as a sculpture? watercolor? mixed media? The more artists and artwork we add to our vocabulary the more depth this step begins to have. For example, my seven year old choosing to paint triptychs based off of woodcuts from one of his favorite storybooks using brushes he made out of sticks and ferns from the back hollow. This idea sprang from a dozen sources and converged upon our dining room table one random rainy afternoon.
Technically, they have been expressing all along! Their reaction to the initial art exposure, their questions and answers as they encountered art, their research and response as they explored the artwork. Now I gather all those balloons, tie them together, hand them over to my children and watch the lift off. This is the place where ideas and concepts mesh together and my children have the opportunity to express what they have learned. They talk about the odds and ends they have gathered and the different ways they employed each piece. This is probably my favorite portion of the process. We have moved from questions to conversation. Its a beautiful step and always takes the most unexpected shapes. In Classical education, every single subject is interconnected and it really shows when we reach this portion. Science, history, geography, math, language— all of it comes into play. Art and academics serve to enrich each other. Its rather thrilling. 🙂 IMG_4911Emulate
Now we go back to the beginning and look at the piece anew. I bring out texts or tools and we try and learn some techniques together. We recall the vocabulary we learned as we explored. We remember lines and shades and shapes we studied. Then we emulate what we have processed. It is easier to do this step after we have formed a friendship with the artist. We just had tea in a cozy Parisian cafe. Remember that crazy waiter who kept dropping the hot croissants? The night sounded like a lone trumpet and the breeze knew every hair on our heads. We can learn how to paint these elements now that we have spent days with them. Of course, it will never be the same breeze. It won’t be the exact waiter. We know this. We keep trying and we keep learning, and in our minds, we see the painting we want. We encourage our hands to keep trying.

Sometimes kids freak out when their art doesn’t match up to the idea in their minds. Sometimes I freak out too. But we are doing this together, the kids and I. The chances are high that at least one of us can talk the rest of the group away from the ledge of artistic despair. (So many FEELINGS in art class! Ay yi yi!) We remind each other, “Emulate might look more like an Echo, for now.” (or forever, in my case). Art is not a perfectly executed machine. I don’t ask for or require perfection. Art is chance to demonstrate what they have learned and showcase their experience with it. The children’s Matisse renditions looked nothing like Matisse, but they felt like Matisse.

My eldest hated drawing for the longest time. But he persevered and continued to work hard. A few months ago, he drew this picture of his hero, George Washington.

Technique may not be perfect, but art has seeped into their pores and mingled with their thoughts and become impressed upon their cellular memory as they paint, mold, sculpt, paste, splatter and create.

Posts like this make me nervous. Don’t read perfection. Don’t think I have it all figured out. With four kids in the mix, we rarely have an art session that does not include tears or disappointment of some kind. Find a way to let art find its way into your home. Whatever that looks like for your family, just take the first step because it is a beautiful, valuable element of education that should not be overlooked.


Farmhouse Schoolhouse Favorite Art Resources

Donna Young: the whole site is full of ideas for various subjects. Donna’s art tab has great projects and directions for learning drawing techniques and perspectives. Very helpful!
Art History Mom: I really dig this site. Art History Mom has tons of project ideas based off of various famous pieces of art. We loved her Van Gogh Sunflower art project.
The Artful Parent: Pretty much everything in this site is great. “Simple ways to fill your family’s life with art & creativity.” Yes, please.
Filth Wizardry: Discovered this gem thanks to The Homegrown Preschooler. Messy art for kids. Huzzah!  #sayyes!
Jackson Pollock Painting Center: it comes up as a blank site. As you drag your cursor the lines appear and once you click it will switch over to a new color. No ads, no weird pop ups, just painting Pollock style. The tots LOVE this and I love it!
Picasso Head: Make Picasso heads with clip art. So much fun.
National Art Gallery for Kids: There is so much on this site, I don’t even know where to start. Check it out. My kids made a gorgeous landscape a few weeks ago using this site. It was really fun to watch unfold.

Art Studies~
Simply Charlotte Mason’s Picture Study Portfolio
My Father’s World Enjoying Art Together
Memoria Press Art Cards 
Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes

Book List~
Katie and the Picture Show by James Mayhew (Adorable little Katie visits Museums, crawls into pictures and goes on adventures. We love every. single. one.)
Katie and the Starry Night by James Mayhew
Katie and the Sunflowers by James Mayhew
Katie and the Bathers by James Mayhew
Katie Meets the Impressionists by James Mayhew
Katie and the Waterlily Pond by James Mayhew
Katie and the Spanish Princess by James Mayhew
Katie and the Mona Lisa by James Mayhew
Anholt’s Artists Books for Children by Laurence Anholt: This is a great series! We love “The Magical Garden of Claude Monet”
Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists:  Another great series by Mike Venezia. Your local library may even have some DVDs. Our boys adore Venezia’s story about Michelangelo.
Mini Masters Boardbooks: A series for toddlers. We love these. They have gotten really really pricey. I’m talking $40 on amazon for the Monet one. We found ours as a bundle on ebay. These are definitely cute but I wouldn’t break the bank to get them.
Henri Matisse: Drawing with Scissors by Jane O’Conner
Vincent Van Gogh: Sunflowers and Swirly Stars by Joan Holub
Pablo Picasso: Breaking All the Rules by True Kelley
Tickle Tut’s Toes by Julie Appel
Make Van Gogh’s Bed by Julie Appel
Count Monet’s Lillies by Julie Appel
Maryann F. Kohl has fantastic art books! We have about 10 of them. We have found them for pennies at thrift stores and on used book sites. Global Art, Story Art and Discovering Great Artists are some of our favorites.
A Child’s Book of Art by Lucy Micklethwait
ANY COFFEE TABLE BOOK WITH GIANT PICTURES OF ART. Truly, get thee to a Barnes & Nobles and check out that huge clearance section of books. There is almost always a giant collection of art that you can buy for around $5. Its usually tucked behind “Weapons of the Civil War” and “Haunting Visions of Ireland.” Pictures. of. art. Go!
Paul Cezanne Block Puzzle: I know its not a book, but this one is too good not to share. Six paintings, one puzzle, big chunky blocks. We love ours.

Art Supplies typically not listed on other blogs~
Kraft Paper Rolls: I’m talking the ginormous 1000 ft rolls. They last a good year and a half or so and we use it every week. I just unroll enough to cover the table, cut and the kids can paint and practice new techniques or make a huge mural.
Plastic Egg Cartons: Yup. Ask your family to save them for you. Cut them apart so you have trays with six slots each. These are cheap, disposable paint palettes.
Twine: We use a surprising amount of twine. Mostly because the boys love making their own paintbrushes thanks to “Benjamin West and his Cat Grimalkin” by Marguerite Henry. (Story of American painter Benjamin West who grew up in a Quaker home, no art allowed, and made paint brushes out of his cat’s hair). We use the twine to bundle up pine needles or grass blades to sticks for a natural paint brush.
Vegetable/Fruit Scraps: Don’t throw that celery butt away. Hand it to your toddler to make celery stamps while you are teaching your older kids the basics of drawing. Keep those moldy strawberries and squish the juice out of them to make paint.
Grocery bags: Its not a bag anymore. Its a smock. Paper or plastic—it will work.
Standing Mirror: For self portraits.
Chocolate: For despair.
A camera: For documenting your child’s artwork and progress!