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.

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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.

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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!
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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.

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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.

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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.
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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)
Typing
Handicrafts
Pin it Maps

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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 Kenya

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After three weeks in Africa, we wrapped up this afternoon by reading through our favorite selections from our study, which was fitting because of all the great books we found for this study! I was nearly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of excellent book choices available this time around. We had a great time drawing pictures, building model homes for the various regions in Africa out of clay and practicing our beadwork while I read aloud.

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One of our first books was “Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions” by Margaret Musgrove.
26 Traditions through the alphabet explored. This book sparked their curiosity in many different directions. We took a closer look at the Ikoma people of Tanzania and their use of small birds to lead them to honey for gathering. We read up on the Tuareg people and were fascinated by the veiled, largely silent males in the culture and the unveiled womens position of great respect as they told stories and recited poetry.

Next we read “Bringing the Ran to Kapiti Plain” by Verna Aardema and then we went full steam into our study of the African savannah.

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We were able to read 8 books while the boys drew out a landscape of the grasslands. Then the younger two went to work with modeling clay while the older two did some map work on their Pin it Maps. We made sure to pin all the regions we read about in the books we looked at this morning and it really helped solidify these places in their mind when they could trace borders and take note of local land water forms.

The boys also enjoyed looking through their Dad’s photo album of his months spent in Kenya. They loved seeing the great variety of animals and the sight of their Dad, young and free, exploring Kenya and making friends overseas.

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For the past four years we have raised money as a family to give to Heifer International each Christmas. With advent right around the corner, I was quite pleased to find the book “One Hen” which tells of the story of “how one small loan made a big difference.” This story had everyones wheels turning, not just about our coming donation to Heifer, but about other ways to help stimulate business opportunity and growth in poorer areas of the world. My eldest remarked that he wanted to find ways to help families become self sufficient and take pride and joy in their work. The boys each wrote out a small composition about small business loans and filed it away in their ECC notebooks.

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I recently posted about our Friday Exam, we split the three weeks of study between North and East Africa, West Africa and South Africa, holding a Friday exam each week to cap off. Things I never thought to see on my dining room table? Weaverbird nests, termite hill cross sections, secretary birds and long giraffe tongues.

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Our nature notebook has started to pick up steam now that the summer steam is lessening. We went for a lovely hike early one morning last week and had several new experiences even though it was a familiar trail. I love that about nature! We got very close to a blue heron and were able to hear its strange call. We found raccoon tracks, a few dragon fly specimens and photographed several specimens of wild orchid.

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We came home and journaled together, only to discover that on the same day last year we also saw a blue heron! An exciting moment for us! We are still using the nature journals from Classical Conversations and its wonderful to see how their work has progressed over time.

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“King if the Wind” by Marguerite Henry was our lunch time read aloud for this study alongside the Christian heroes Then and Now  edition of David Livingstone.  The days are slowly ripening into perfect outdoor reading weather and I have a feeling we’ll be doing the vast majority of our schoolwork outdoors this winter. We start Marco Polo’s account of his journey on Monday and I can’t wait!

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There are a few resources that we use for each study, without exception, that I do not mention every time I post. They are:

1) Planet Earth DVDs  and One Small Square series by Donald Silver for Biome Study. These two together have replaced Properties of Ecosystems for us. We journal and illustrate pages from the Square books and then watch Planet Earth. We still do all the experiments listed in the TM.

2) Hungry Planet: What the World Eats by Peter Menzel*
3) Material World by Peter Menzel*
*These books have been much more interesting and engaging than the majority of the Geography pages assigned in our TM. Oftentimes we skip those entirely and just learn about the countries using these two books along with the book basket recommendations and…
4) Give Your Child the World by Jamie Martin. This is a book of book lists organized by area and country. Its fantastic and has enriched our year.

5)  Pin It Maps. We use the individual country maps, world map, land and water forms and country flag maps.

6) Around the World in 80 Pages by Antony Mason. This little book takes the children through the countries on the various continents. The last few weeks we read through its descriptions of North Africa, East Africa, West Africa, South Africa and portions of the middle east. It really made the continent of Africa so much more vivid for my children and helped them understand that Africa is not one giant plain covered in grass and full of elephants and lions and giraffes. It gave depth and perspective and contrast. Such a great little book!
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Africa Book List

Rain School by James Rumford
Ashanti to Zulu by Margaret Musgrave
Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema (also a Reading Rainbow episode!)
Two Ways to Count to Ten: A Liberian Folktale by Ruby Dee
Seven Spool of Thread by Angela Mediars
Owen & Mzee by Isabella Hatkoff
We all Went on Safari by Laurie Krebs
Africa is Not a Country by Margy Burns Knight
Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier
Jaha and Jamil Went Down the Hill: African Mother Goose by Virginia Kroll
The Boy who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba
The Best Beekeeper of Lalibela by Cristina Kessler
My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken and Me by Maya Angelou
One Hen by Katie Smith Milway
My Rows and Piles of Coins by Tolowa Mollel

I have dropped the ball on crafts, thanks to our focus on handiwork. We haven’t really opened Global Art much of late because of everything else we have going on, especially with crochet and knitting. But I do love some of the crafts in the book so I’m going to try and be a bit more diligent about setting time aside for the boys to make these things.

Next up–the Middle East!

MFW ECC Norway

Norway! Quite possibly, our favorite unit so far. Surprising because on the eve of this study’s inauguration, my husband had to call an ambulance to come get me after I began to experience sudden and horrific pain. Two days in the hospital, lots of prescription meds and a slow recovery had me forecasting a pretty dreadful, overwhelming and miserable few weeks of school, but the exact opposite happened. Our village lovingly reached out and made meals, came to visit, took over some of my responsibilities and encouraged us. My husband even went in my place to our Classical Conversations community day and wore the Director’s hat on my behalf.  It blessed me deeply to have such thoughtful love and care poured over us. Even the boys were extra helpful and diligent in their work. While we did not have as many outdoor adventures as usual, we still had a lovely time with our study!

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We spent many, many hours reading this time around. The D’Aulaires have a wealth of books for Norway study and we read them all. Many cups of tea and several knit dishcloths later, we went through the pile and chose our favorites and read them again. We also enjoyed Joanna Spyri’s “Heidi” as one of our overall European books.

Norway/Scandinavian Booklist: 

Welcome Back Sun by Michael Emberly
D is for Dala Horse: A Nordic Country Alphabet by Kathy Jo Wargin
Once Upon a Northern Light by Jean Pendziwol
East of the Sun and West of the Moon
Norwegian Tales by Ingri D’aulaire
Ola by Ingri D’aulaire
Children of the Northern Lights by Ingri D’aulaire
Leif the Lucky by Ingri D’aulaire
Book of Trolls by Ingri D’aulaire
Katie the Windmill Cat by Gretchen Woelfe
Boxes for Katje by Candace Flemming
Hans Brinker, the Silver Skates
Hannah’s Cold Winter by Trish Marx
My Tour of Europe by Teddy Roosevelt Age 10 by Ellen Marx
Heidi by Johanna Spyri
Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan

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Science with ECC continues to be a bit shaky at times. The kids love the science experiments (don’t skip them!) but POE is still hard to get through. So we do what we can and then we take off on our own. The BBC Planet Earth series is phenomenal and we loved the episode on forests. We used tree cards from Tanglewood Hollow and a beautiful crochet tree ring I received from a Montessori Materials swap. My son and I have been knitting tiny crochet bowls like mad lately and we have been using them to hold some of our favorite nature finds.

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While the older boys finished cataloging tree rubbings and leaf samples in their nature journals, my youngest children went with me to the kitchen to make The Homegrown Preschooler’s Herbal doh recipe. We had a lovely time practicing math and practical life skills. The older children went outside and collected pine needles and pine cones to decorate the table. I set out some natural materials like acorns caps, sweet gums, petals and walnut shells. The boys sat and played with doh while I read through books and eventually we switched over to enjoying various Scandinavian composers and musicians.

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Its encouraging to witness the engagement that takes place through living books. Dry textbooks just do not impart the same connection and inspiration. The boys were utterly captivated by the life of the Lapp children and spent many hours learning more about reindeers and the midnight sun and of course, the northern lights.

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Even during their quiet time, I caught them reading in little corners all over the house. I think we all needed to be still for a few days. Don’t get me wrong, by the time my husband returned home they were always bouncing off the walls with pent up energy, but overall, they were content to snuggle on my recovery bed, drink tea, knit and listen to stories. Or at times, day dream while I read and make incredibly accurate laser gun noises under their breath while they battle evil forces in a galaxy far, far away. Ah, boys.

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Towards the end of the week we experienced an actual beautiful weather day! Granted, a massive tropical storm was providing cloud cover for the entire state, but hey! it was nice and cool! So we jumped on our chance and headed outdoors for a picnic. But first, the boys had to get incredibly dirty. They caked on the mud, made leaf crowns, painted each other’s faces, adventured in other realms and had a marvelous morning. They settled onto their blanket as I read aloud from a stack of books I brought outside with us. They watched the clouds for a bit as I read and eventually, they each closed their eyes and just listened to the story. They looked so peaceful all cuddled up together. This only lasted a few minutes before someone threw a punch or tooted or threw grass in someone’s face and the equilibrium was lost. But still, those fleeting moments of silence and peace were magnificent.

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Lastly, we marked the anniversary of our faithful friend’s passing on September 6th. Our beloved pup, Frankie, who was with us for 8 years. It was a hard day for everyone. I am thankful that the boys have had time to grieve his death and I recognize that they are still sad and grieving. Its the biggest loss they have encountered so far and it was a heavy day in the midst of our study. I am glad that we could honor that day the way these boys needed to. Reindeers, Dutch cookies, Norwegian myths, poetry tea time and a walk to our friend’s grave with a fistful of purple flowers.

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Norway was beautiful and its one of those studies I will treasure in my heart because of all we experienced as lived out our week.

We’ll meet again in Paris!

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!)

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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.

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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…

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We hit the beach.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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: Mexico!

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)

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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.

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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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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We are off to Canada next. See you there! 🙂
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MFW ECC: North America/United States

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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MFW ECC: Introduction Part 1

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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!

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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:

Pray
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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